College Basketball Previews: West Coast Conference features maybe best race at top

It'll be another battle at the top between Gonzaga and SMC -- and BYU. The WCC is gonna be really fun. (US Presswire)

The West Coast Conference was mostly a three-team race last season and will be again this season, and should be for most seasons going forward as long as Mark Few remains at Gonzaga, Dave Rose stays at BYU and Randy Bennett continues at Saint Mary's. That's the result of those programs separating themselves from the pack. SMC won the regular-season title last season. (Yes, Gonzaga's streak was snapped.)

Now the Gaels could do it again thanks to the presence of Matthew Dellavedova -- a 6-foot-4 point guard with Olympic experience who could earn All-American honors this season.

St. Mary's
San Diego
Santa Clara
San Francisco

He's really good. He'll keep Saint Mary's relevant. But the pick in the WCC has to be Gonzaga, where Few just might have his best team in years. The Zags are ranked 19th in our preseason Top 25 (and one) thanks to the return of sophomore guard Kevin Pangos and senior forward Elias Harris. Will Gonzaga miss Robert Sacre? Yes. He was big and solid. But Sacre wasn't last season's leading scorer (that was Pangos) or leading rebounder (that was Harris), so there's reason to think the Zags will be able to get by without him and, perhaps, maybe even make the Final Four.

That said, third in the WCC wouldn't be a shock, either. Again, this is a three-team race that Gonzaga, SMC or BYU could reasonably win. The Cougars are a bit of a mystery because they lost two double-digit scorers in Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo. But Brandon Davis is still around and is one of the nation's best bigs, and it should be noted that BYU coach Dave Rose has never finished worse than third or lost more than four games in any league in seven years as a head coach.

So don't count BYU out -- this year or any year to come.

Coaches take

"I love Gonzaga's guards -- just the way they shoot it. You have to step out guard them, and if they're making shots they're really tough to beat. But BYU and Saint Mary's are good, too. So the race at the top will be interesting."

The league's best

  • WCC Preseason Player of the Year: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's. The senior point guard has improved his scoring numbers, assist numbers and field-goal percentage each of the past three years. Assuming he does that again, he'll take home a lot of hardware.
  • Brandon Davies, BYU. Davies will likely forever be known best as the big guy who violated BYU's honor code. But he's more than that -- more specifically a terrific post player capable of leading the Cougars to a WCC title.
  • Elias Harris, Gonzaga. The buzz surrounding Harris has quieted since his freshman season. But the German forward is still good for nearly a double-double on average.
  • Anthony Ireland, Loyola-Marymount. Ireland is the best WCC player not playing at Gonzaga, Saint Mary's or BYU. He's little. But he can score.
  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga. Pangos paired with teammate Gary Bell gives the Zags one of the nation's best shooting backcourts.

Numbers to know

0: That's the number of schools not named Gonzaga or Saint Mary's that have won the WCC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the past five seasons. The last time somebody other than the Zags or Gaels won the WCC tournament was San Diego in 2008.

1: That's how many WCC members have an enrollment greater than 10,000. The school that has it is BYU, which has an enrollment of more than 34,000.

13: That's how many seasons Mark Few has coached at Gonzaga. That's also how many NCAA tournaments he's made.

Previously in previews:

No. 12 -- Western Athletic
No. 13 -- Colonial
No. 14 -- Horizon League
No. 15 -- The Ivy League
No. 16 -- Summit League
No. 17 -- MAC
No. 18 -- Atlantic Sun
No. 19 -- Sun Belt
No. 20 -- MAAC
No. 21 -- Patriot League
No. 22 -- Ohio Valley
No. 23 -- Big West
No. 24 -- SoCon
No. 25 -- NEC
No. 26 -- Big South
No. 27 -- Southland
No. 28 -- Big Sky
No. 29 -- America East
No. 30 -- MEAC
No. 31 -- Great West
No. 32 -- SWAC

For more college basketball news, commentary and discourse, follow @EyeonCBB and @GaryParrishCBS on Twitter. And be sure to like us on Facebook.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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