It’s hardly surprising that Gonzaga, which has won or shared the last 11 West Coast Conference men’s basketball titles, was favored to make it 12 straight when the coaches’ preseason poll was released Thursday.
But those coaches probably had to think twice when filling out the top few lines on their ballots. Saint Mary’s shared last year’s title with Gonzaga and returns four starters. WCC newcomer Brigham Young was a dominant program in the Mountain West and throttled Gonzaga by 22 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. San Francisco is coming off its best WCC season in 29 years.
Still, Gonzaga was the coaches’ pick, receiving seven of nine first-place votes and 63 of 64 possible points. Coaches aren’t permitted to vote for their team in first place. Saint Mary’s was second with one first-place vote and 56 points. BYU was third with one first-place vote and 52 points, followed by San Francisco with 42 points.
“This (conference) is as good as I’ve ever seen it,” said Bulldogs coach Mark Few, whose team entertains Carroll College in an exhibition game tonight at 6. “There are a lot of teams that will win 20-plus games. How the multi-bid thing plays out will be interesting. Adding BYU gives us another national program in the conference. I hope people don’t always think you’re going to roll through undefeated. That was the most unfair assessment of our league.”
Gonzaga senior center Rob Sacre and junior forward Elias Harris were selected to the 10-player preseason All-WCC team. Sacre (12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Harris (12.4 points, six rebounds) had nearly identical numbers last season as GU advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 13th consecutive season. Saint Mary’s and USF also had two representatives. The Gaels’ Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones and USF guards Rashad Green and Michael Williams were chosen.
Carroll defeated the Blue Angels, a collection of former college players, 95-81 in an exhibition game a week ago. The Saints return four starters from a team that won the Frontier Conference last season and advanced to the final 16 of the NAIA Tournament.