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Conference Catchup: Zags likely top dogs in WCC but other threats lurk

by | College Basketball Insider
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Gonzaga remains a heavy favorite to win the WCC as Elias Harris is back for his senior season. (Getty Images)  
Gonzaga remains a heavy favorite to win the WCC as Elias Harris is back for his senior season. (Getty Images)  

Saint Mary's finally ended Gonzaga's remarkable run of regular-season league titles at 11 a year ago, but will the Zags start a new streak? Mark Few has a talented young backcourt, an experienced forward and an import who comes in with no shortage of hype. However, Randy Bennett still has Aussie point guard Matthew Dellavedova -- which gives the Gaels a chance to go back-to-back. BYU is in its second year in the league and the Cougars will have more balance with the return of Tyler Haws from a mission -- and the return of Brandon Davies. Don't be shocked if someone can crack the top three, with Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Santa Clara all legitimate threats.

Offseason headlines

1. Zags class of league: No one would have guessed that Elias Harris would stick around Spokane for four years, but that's exactly what happened -- and he'll be a senior this coming season. He'll also have a pair of talented guards who now have a year under their belt in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. Mark Few's team will be the heavy favorite to win the league -- again.

2. Don't forget about Delly: Matthew Dellavedova is one of the elite -- and most underrated guards in the country. Delly will have to learn to adjust to life without Rob Jones, but the Gaels should still be an NCAA tournament team as long as their hard-nosed point guard is still around.

3. Santa Clara returns: Kerry Keating suffered through a dismal season last year, but it's no wonder: He was without Marc Trasolini for the entire year due to a torn ACL and star Kevin Foster only played 18 games due to a suspension. Both should be back -- and that means Santa Clara will make some noise in the league.

4. Haws returns from Mission: BYU has Brandon Davies back -- and Matt Carlino is eligible from day one. Dave Rose's program will also be boosted with the return of Tyler Haws, who averaged 11.3 points per game in 2009-10. Haws spent the last couple years on a Mission in the Phillippines.

Big question that remains

Question? How good is Przemek Karnowski?

Gonzaga got the 7-footer from Poland in early May and the word from international folks is that this kid can be a force -- maybe even an NBA guy down the road. He's a skilled lefty who also considered Cal -- and he'll give the Zags a presence they could use with the departure of Robert Sacre.

NBA Draft report

Could've gone and did: None

Could've gone but stayed: Elias Harris (Gonzaga)

Transfers

Coming: Ben Dickinson (Binghamton to Loyola Marymount); Brendan Lane (UCLA to Pepperdine); Garrett Jackson (USC to St. Mary's); D'End Parker (UCLA to San Francisco); Matt Glover (Penn State to San Francisco)

Going: Nick Martineau (BYU); Mathis Keita (Gonzaga); Ryan Spangler (Gonzaga to Oklahoma); Jarred Dubois (Loyola Marymount to Utah); Hector Harold (Pepperdine to Vermont); Joshua Lowery (Pepperdine to Grand Canyon); Ramon Eaton (Pepperdine to New Mexico JC); Tim Douglas (Portland to Portland State); Perris Blackwell (San Francisco to Washington); Charles Standifer (San Francisco to Cal State Fullerton); Michael Williams (San Francisco to Cal State Fullerton); Avery Johnson (San Francisco to Cal Davis); Khalil Murphy (San Francisco); Justin Raffington (San Francisco)

Team commentary in 140 characters or less

BYU: Dave Rose will have to replace Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo, but the Cougars will get Tyler Haws back from a mission -- and both Stephen Rogers and Chris Collinsworth should be healthy.

Gonzaga: The Zags lost Robert Sacre, but Sam Dower and Poland 7-footer Przemek Karnowski should fill that void -- and the young backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., will have a year under their belt.

BYU lose a couple of key players but will have Tyler Haws back from a mission. (Getty Images)  
BYU lose a couple of key players but will have Tyler Haws back from a mission. (Getty Images)  
Loyola Marymount: The Lions won 21 games last season and will have to find a way to replace Drew Viney and Jarred DuBois. Anthony Ireland is one of the best point guards in the league and Ashley Hamilton also returns.

Pepperdine: The Waves struggled last season, winning just 10 games -- and lost their top two scorers to graduation. Freshman guard Jordan Baker was a bright spot last season.

Portland: Eric Reveno's team won just seven games a year ago, but he returns his top three players -- Ryan Nicholas, Thomas Van Der Mars and Kevin Bailey.

Saint Mary's: You won't find too many better guards in the country than Aussie Matthew Dellavedova. Randy Bennett will need big man Brad Waldow, who was impressive last season, to take another step forward.

San Diego: Bill Grier returns his top four scorers -- and all are now upperclassmen. The Toreros have a chance to crack the top half of the league.

San Francisco: No one lost more than Rex Walters. Six players transferred from the Dons -- including leading scorer Michael Williams and Perris Blackwell.

Santa Clara: Kevin Foster will be back back. So is Marc Trasolini. This team will look completely different than it did in league play a year ago.

Early guess at the top five in the league

1. Gonzaga
2. Saint Mary's
3. BYU
4. Santa Clara
5. San Diego

Early guess at the all-conference team

G: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's
G: Kevin Foster, Santa Clara
F: Brandon Davies, BYU
F: Elias Harris, Gonzaga
C: Sam Dower, Gonzaga

Final thought

The WCC got three teams in the NCAA tournament last season for just the second time in the history of the league, but that could be the norm going forward. Gonzaga is a mainstay in the tourney and both Saint Mary's and BYU have been able to sustain success recently. While teams down the bottom of the league -- Portland, Pepperdine and San Francisco -- may struggle, it's not out of the question that this conference could even send four to the Big Dance this coming season. Santa Clara should have Kevin Foster back, LMU boasts one of the elite guards in Anthony Ireland and San Diego coach Bill Grier has a young, talented backcourt that makes the Toreros competitive for one of the top spots in the league.

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