We’ve got our Preseason All-WCC Team and our individual awards predictions. Now let’s look at what matters in the big picture, how the teams will fare. Here are standings predictions as we try to determine how the teams will finish in the standings. Don’t forget the WCC Tip-Off event is underway at 10:30am Pacific today, so we will know shortly how well we match the voters.
We will go from last place to first with a little analysis on what we think will happen to the team and why.
10) PACIFIC – The Tigers had a great debut in the WCC last year. Although they only went 6-12, they fielded a competitive squad and finished 18-16 overall. They reached the CIT Tournament where they went deep including knocking out the San Diego Toreros in the process. But they lost a lot of talent off that roster, and it’s contrasted by the fact that most of the WCC has a lot of up and coming talent. They exceeded expectations last year, this year won’t be the case. Pacific is still a few years away from being consistently competitive, and they will take some lumps this season.
9) SANTA CLARA – The future is bright for the Broncos, but it’s not here yet. Despite a huge season from WCC Newcomer of the Year Jared Brownridge, the Broncos could only muster a 6-12 record in WCC play. Unfortunately, the combo of Brandon Clark and Brownridge cannot do it all themselves. They will be enough to carry them to a few wins, but there are deeper teams in the WCC that will finish ahead of them.
8) LOYOLA MARYMOUNT – The Lions are in transition, and unfortunately it’s going to hurt a young and talented team. New coach Mike Dunlap has a great pedigree, and over time he should build a quality program. But in year one with mostly not his own players, there will be an adjustment period. Fortunately for Dunlap, he inherits a great young group highlighted by Evan Payne. If I’m a Lions fan I have no problem writing off this year and letting the team grow in anticipation of doing big things in a year or two.
7) SAN DIEGO – The breakout team that still hasn’t broken out yet. For a while now, the Toreros have been a favorite to bust into the top of the standings but haven’t done it yet. They had a good year and got some quality wins including an upset of Gonzaga, but they finished under .500 in WCC play as their achievements were canceled out by bad losses. They finished 18-17 over all and won a couple games in the CIT Tournament. This year it’s now or never for the Toreros. After losing only one starter from last year and having key guards Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson in their senior seasons, they will again be a popular pick to finally take the next step. But with so much depth in the conference, it may be tough. Unfortunately they have developed at a time when other teams have gotten good as well. Hard to trust this team to put enough wins together to really make some noise.
6) PORTLAND – The Pilots were one of the most impressive teams in the bottom of the conference last year. Coach Eric Reveno seasoned him team well with a very tough non-conference schedule, and they used that experience to get upsets of Gonzaga and BYU. But that momentum didn’t carry over to other games, and they finished under .500 in both WCC play and overall. Sophomore guard Alec Wintering is a star in the making, and they have some players in their prime like seniors Kevin Bailey and Thomas Van der Mars. We should see the Pilots have another good year where they can compete with anyone, and if a few shots fall there way they could be a breakout team.
5) PEPPERDINE – I’ve probably said it three different times lately in various articles on here, but I will say it again. I love Pepperdine this year. Stacy Davis and Jeremy Major is one of the best frontcourt/backcourt combos in the conference, and it should terrify opposing teams that they are only a junior and sophomore respectively. Next year when they are both upperclassmen we could be talking about Pepperdine as the next big team in the WCC, but for now they just take a small step forward. They should be competitive and steal some big wins, and I look forward to solid recruits like A.J. John developing in anticipation of the Waves doing big things next season.
4) SAN FRANCISCO – The Dons were no fluke last year. They had a very talented team, and the biggest thing they did was prove they belong with the top teams by not losing a WCC game to anyone outside the big three. Their 21-12 record was impressive, but even more impressive was going 13-5 in WCC play and finishing tied for second with BYU and ahead of Saint Mary’s. The Dons made it to the NIT Tournament and lost in the first round, but it was a big milestone as it had been a while since a WCC team not named Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, or BYU had reached a major postseason tournament. This year the Dons are back with an absolutely stacked frontcourt, one that might be the best in the conference. They will absolutely have a shot at knocking off every team in the conference, and only the pedigree and talent of the teams ahead of them will push them to fourth. But with their talent, that should still mean a good record and postseason consideration.
3) SAINT MARY’S – The Gaels had a down year by their standards last season. Too many losses to teams they shouldn’t have lost to, and it led to them falling to fourth in the standings. Still, a down year for Saint Mary’s is still a pretty good year. Brad Waldow and Stephen Holt were dominant and the Gaels made it to the second round of the NIT while recording 23 wins. Holt is gone, but Waldow is back and might be the best center in the conference. The key factor will be the quick start of Stanford transfer Aaron Bright. His playmaking ability is perfect to tie the Gaels together, and he could be the next great guard in Gaels history. Between those two and the other solid talent around them, the Gaels should bounce back and return to their usual place in the top three.
2) BYU – Like the Gaels, the Cougars had a down year last season. When you are losing to teams like Portland and Pacific, that’s not a normal year for the Cougars. Still, they dominated most of their opponents reaching the WCC Tournament finals and the NCAA Tournament. BYU is just too powerful a program and there is too much talent on the roster to keep them down for long. With Tyler Haws gunning for National Player of the Year honors and one of the best supporting casts he could hope for in guys like Kyle Collinsworth and Nate Austin, the Cougars should be back on the map. I expect a dominant year where they will chase Gonzaga for the championship and reach another NCAA Tournament.
1) GONZAGA – The seasons come and go, but Gonzaga still reigns supreme. It was a typical ho-hum year for Gonzaga last season featuring regular season and WCC Tournament titles and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This year should be more of the same with the Bulldogs fully reloaded and nationally ranked in most polls. Kevin Pangos will have a great season worthy of WCC Player of the Year consideration. Przemek Karnowski will continue to be a terror and push Brad Waldow for the title of best center in the conference. Kyle Witljer and Bryon Wesley will be some of the best transfers the WCC has seen, and both will be in the running for WCC Newcomer of the Year. There are a lot of talented teams this year to test the Bulldogs, and they certainly won’t get through conference play without some losses. But they are still the class of the WCC.