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Gonzaga will open WCC schedule at home against Pacific, Santa Clara

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 8, 2017, 5:31 p.m.

Coach Mark Few, pictured against South Carolina in the Final Four, has guided Gonzaga to five straight outright or shared WCC titles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Coach Mark Few, pictured against South Carolina in the Final Four, has guided Gonzaga to five straight outright or shared WCC titles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The 2017-18 West Coast Conference men’s basketball schedule is a bit more travel friendly for the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Zags face three split weeks (one home game, one road game). They had five scheduled split weeks last season. That was before the Portland game was postponed due to inclement weather. The reschedule resulted in Gonzaga playing three games – away, home, away – in five days.

The conference schedule was released on Tuesday. The television schedule and Gonzaga’s nonconference slate will be released at a later date.

Gonzaga made separate trips to Los Angeles last year to face Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. The Zags will visit the L.A. schools on the same week (Jan. 4 and Jan. 6) this season.

The Zags will make three trips to face the four Bay Area schools this season compared to four last year.

The schedule is expected to return to the traditional travel partners next season when the calendar allows for a 10-week conference schedule. The 2016-17 and 2017-18 schedules were condensed into nine weeks with no byes to avoid pre-Christmas WCC games.

Saint Mary’s has been Gonzaga’s primary challenger since 2004 and that should be the case again this season. The Zags have won or shared five straight regular-season titles and 16 of the last 17. The Gaels have won or shared three titles since 2011. They’ve finished second nine times since 2004.

Gonzaga faces Saint Mary’s, which returns most of its key players from last year’s second-place team, on Jan. 18 in Spokane and Feb. 10 in Moraga, California. The Gaels finished 16-2 in conference last season, both losses coming to Gonzaga.

Gonzaga entertains BYU on Feb. 3 and visits Provo to close the regular season on Feb. 24. The Zags’ lone conference setback came against BYU last February on GU’s Senior Night.

The Zags open at home against Pacific on Thursday, Dec. 28, and Santa Clara on Saturday, Dec. 30. Pepperdine will be GU’s Senior Night opponent on Feb. 17.

Gonzaga has three weeks with two home games, three weeks with two road games and three split weeks. The WCC Tournament will be held March 1-6 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

The Zags (37-2) reached the NCAA title game, falling to North Carolina. They’ll have a new look with the departures of Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins and Jordan Mathews. They represented four of Gonzaga’s top five scorers.

Saint Mary’s lost to Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. BYU played in the NIT, its 12th consecutive postseason trip. San Francisco lost to Rice in the first round of the CBI in the Dons’ fourth postseason appearance since 2011.