Two things have become certainties at the WCC’s annual media day.
The men’s basketball coaches insist the conference is getting better and they project Gonzaga as the favorite in the preseason poll. Considering their track record on both subjects, they’ve been right more often than wrong.
Nothing changed at Thursday’s tip-off event in Los Angeles, which was available online at WCCsports.com and at TheW.tv, the conference’s web channel. Gonzaga was pegged for first with eight of 10 first-place votes, followed by BYU, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and San Diego.
The Bulldogs have won or shared WCC championships 12 of the last 13 seasons. The WCC, long a one-bid league, has had multiple NCAA tournament berths four of the last six seasons, including three in 2012 and 2008. In 2011, lone representative Gonzaga lost in the second round to BYU, which joined the WCC the following season.
Gonzaga’s challenge is replacing front-court standouts Kelly Olynyk, now with the Boston Celtics, and Elias Harris, a Los Angeles Laker. The most likely candidates are senior Sam Dower Jr. and sophomore Przemek Karnowski.
“For the first time in all the years I’ve been (at Gonzaga) we’ve lost two NBA guys in the same year,” coach Mark Few said. “Austin (Daye) left one year and Jeremy (Pargo) eventually became an NBA guy. We’ve had some good players in the wings. Sam now gets an extended run, Przemek gets an extended run. They’re very different than Kelly … but we’re hoping they can be every bit as effective.”
BYU, which has finished third the last two seasons, has a strong backcourt with Matt Carlino, Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, who returns from a two-year LDS mission.
“Our challenge with these young guys, I think we’re going to make baskets, is how quickly will they be able to execute our defensive system,” Cougars coach Dave Rose said. “As our big guys become more comfortable, you’ll really see our team improve.”
Haws led the WCC in scoring last season at 21.7 points per game.
“Our team goal is to win the conference and win the conference tournament,” Carlino said.
Saint Mary’s, which unseated GU as conference champion two years ago, lost standout Matthew Dellavedova, now a Cleveland Cavalier, but returns guard Stephen Holt, wing Beau Levesque and center Brad Waldow.
Coach Randy Bennett expects immediate contributions from Garrett Jackson, a transfer from USC, junior-college transfer Kerry Carter, Australian Dane Pineau and freshman Calvin Hermanson.
“I’ve been in this league since 1986 (with the exception of two years) and it’s really growing,” Bennett said. “It’s really taken off the last five years. People don’t understand how good these teams are.”
Pangos, Bell honored
Gonzaga junior guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. were among 10 players selected to the preseason All-WCC team. Pangos has earned first-team honors in his first two seasons. Bell, a junior, was honorable mention last year and on the All-Freshman team two years ago.
Rounding out the All-WCC team are San Francisco’s Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson, Saint Mary’s Holt and Waldow, BYU’s Haws, Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis, San Diego’s Johnny Dee and Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland.
Zags host Simon Fraser
Gonzaga entertains Simon Fraser in an exhibition game tonight at 6 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“The best thing for us is to play somebody else,” Few said. “You can start seeing how the minutes need to be divided up or how guys can handle lengthier runs than they’ve had in the past.”
Simon Fraser, an NCAA Division II school located in Burnaby, B.C., is picked to finish ninth in the 10-team Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Forward David Gebru, who averaged 17.3 points last season, made the preseason All-GNAC team.
TV schedule announced
WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich announced that at least 90 percent (81 of 90) of this year’s West Coast Conference men’s basketball games will be televised on a national or regional level, or produced for broadcast on the conference’s new network, TheW.tv.
Seventeen WCC regular-season games will be broadcast on ESPN Networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) and an additional 48 games will air on regional television through conference and school partnerships with Time Warner Cable Sports, Comcast SportsNet, ROOT Sports and BYUtv – along with the West Coast Conference Game of the Week. In all, TheW.tv will air at least 63 West Coast Conference men’s basketball games this season, including a minimum of 15 exclusive broadcasts produced in HD television quality for the digital platform.