WEST COAST CONFERENCE NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-Gonzaga has dominated this league since the 1998-1999 season, but it has on occasion sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament. Pepperdine went in 2002, San Diego in 2003 and Saint Marys in 2005. However, Gonzaga is the only team to win an NCAA Tournament game since 1999.
-Dick Davey of Santa Clara was forced to announce his resignation last February. He went on to win 21 games and was voted the conferences coach of the year. Has that ever happened before?? I dont know what all went into that decision, but it sounds to me like the kind of administrative leadership that prevents programs from going anywhere (and there is a lot of that out there). Way to go Santa Clara!!WEST COAST CONFERENCE TEAMS
-GONZAGA has been dominating this league and this year should be no different. Every time the Zags lose a ton of talent, the national perception seems to be that the great run is over. I think the nation is finally starting to realize that Gonzaga is an elite program on a national level and is never going to go away. They made the NCAA Tournament as a #10 seed last year, and that was considered a down year. Most dont realize this, but that is the exact same seed the team received when they went to the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen in back to back years (1999, 2000). At that point the nation looked at them as the little team that could and now a #10 seed is a down year. Gonzaga, once again, appears to have the ingredients of a Sweet Sixteen caliber team, and maybe even beyond that. Josh Heytvelt
has rejoined the team after serving an eight-month suspension. He isnt practicing right now due to a foot injury, but he is expected to play and will be at full strength. Along with Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo
(guard), Matt Bouldin
(guard), David Pendergraft (forward) and Micah Downs
(forward) make up a very experienced and solid roster. In addition to that, the Zags have a top 30 recruiting class coming in, which is being considered as the best in school history. Expect Austin Daye
and Robert Sacre to contribute to the front-court right away. Gonzaga is playing its usual murderers row for an out of conference schedule, and that is key for judging how good they are on a national level. In the league itself, it appears as though they will dominate and make it back to the NCAA Tournament once again. It feels as if the Zags are playing for a good seed rather than a spot in the field.
-If there is a team that has a shot at making the NCAAs with an at-large, or in shocking Gonzaga in the conference tournament, its SAINT MARYS. They were just 15-16 last season, but return four starters on a team that finished the year rather strong. They also appear to have more experience and talent than just about anyone else in the league, which should allow them to keep pace with the Zags. David Simpson is a player to keep an eye on. He led the league in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals last year. He is just a junior this year, and appears to have a bright future ahead of him, which could include a trip to the postseason. The only thing theyre really lacking is a point guard, but if juco transfer Carlin Hughes can step it up this year then Saint Marys will really have something. OOC highlights include Oregon, San Diego State, Southern Illinois, Texas and a Bracket Buster game. Throw in two games against Gonzaga and they have plenty of chances to get the quality wins they need to become an at-large caliber team.
-SAN DIEGO is another team that could be dangerous this year. They have the privilege of hosting the conference tournament, and also have four returning starters from a team that finished rather strong last year. They have no seniors, but are very experienced, which has to make new head coach Bill Grier happy. Forward Gyno Pomare is a player to keep an eye on. He averaged over 14ppg and 8rpg last season, and should be even better this year. Guard Brandon Johnson is also a very strong player. UNLV, San Diego State, USC, Nevada and Kentucky are some of the highlights on their OOC schedule. They should be a rather competitive team and if they can pull off a surprise or two it would do wonders for their NCAA Tourney resume.
-Ive always thought SANTA CLARA was a rather inconsistent team, but it still made no sense for them to force Dick Davey to resign, especially considering the year they were having last year. Several alumni and supporters were rather upset, and I dont blame them. New head coach Kerry Keating takes over, and although six upperclassmen are back, only two are starters. Four freshmen join the squad this year, and all will be depended on to be productive and produce. If they can do that then Santa Clara will be in the mix. If not, then they could end up struggling this season.
-A big blow for SAN FRANCISCO came when guard Anthony Kellogg left school in an attempt to go pro. They were a talented team last year, and appear to have some talent again this year, but with only two starters coming back Kellogg could have made a huge difference. Two transfer players, one of which is Dior Lowhorn
from Texas Tech, should be able to contribute to the teams frontcourt this year. The potential is there for them to be a well-balanced team, but I just dont see them as being a postseason caliber team just yet.
-LMU has seven freshmen on the roster this year, and experience is a factor. They do have two starters coming back, but neither contributed big numbers last season and theyll have to step it up in a big way if they want to be successful this year. When a team is trying to rebuild having so many young players isnt a bad thing if you can get them to all develop together. However, for the short run, it looks as if LMU will be closer to the bottom than the top.
-PEPPERDINE has lost 20+ games for the past two seasons. For a team that was trying to become Gonzagas equal at one time, they appear to be going backwards instead of forwards. Only one starter is back, but the team struggled last year with injuries and guys who simply left. This year, head coach Vance Walberg has the opportunity to rebuild the teams roster with players who can work within his system. This is a trial season to see if Walberg can get them headed in the right direction.
-PORTLAND won their first WCC Tournament game in over ten years last year, but they still only managed nine wins total on the season. They also went through a huge change in personnel and have five new freshmen on the team this year, one of which is guard Nik Ravio. You may remember his brother Derek Ravio from Gonzaga. Reports say that Ravio is a good shooter and should step in to a major contributing role right away. Like a lot of teams that are young and untested, it looks as though there are more questions than answers at this point.