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Zags begin WCC with tough stretch

We took a tour of the WCC, where Gonzaga is favored to win the title for the 14th time in 15 seasons.

WCC race about to begin

In a couple of days, Gonzaga will open its WCC schedule against Santa Clara. It seems odd that GU will be playing two WCC games before New Year's Eve, but that's how the 18-game schedule shakes out with 10 members.

The WCC started off white-hot in the pre-conference but has slowly cooled off, including a rough stretch of late. Still, all 10 programs boast winning records. Gonzaga is 10-2 and ranked 24th, which is pretty much what I expected at this point of the season. Saint Mary's is 9-3 after dropping three in a row in Hawaii. BYU is 8-5 but has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. 

More on the WCC, the good and bad, in my article that ran in today's S-R with the debut of our weekly Four Corners page. There's also a glance at GU's opponents this week.

Programming note: Media day later this afternoon (GU returned to practice Wednesday evening).



Carlson: Gonzaga Will Leave WCC

Memo to Zagnation and Zagnauts: Your beloved Bulldogs are once again going for the money. Make no mistake, it's just a matter of time before they officially accept an invitation from the "new" Big East to join the Catholic Seven non-football playing members of the "old" Big East conference. Forget about tradition. Forget about rivalries. In the words of motor-mouth basketball commentator Dick Vitale, "It's all about the money, baby, it's all about the money." Don't forget, Zag fans, this is the same guy who guaranteed the nation's basketball watching television audience that Wichita State would defeat Gonzaga in the NCAA round of 32/Chris Carlson, Carlson Chronicles. More here.

Question: Would you like to see Gonzaga leave the West Coast Conference for a more prestigious one?

Gonzaga men defeat Saint Mary’s 65-51

S-R photojournalist Colin Mulvany covered the GU win over Saint Mary's.  Check out a big picture gallery of his photos

GU women win WCC

S-R photojournalist Colin Mulvany covered the GU women's victory over San Diego.  Check out a big picture gallery of his photos.

GU defeats LMU 66-48

S-R photojournalist Colin Mulvany covered the GU victory over LMU to advance to the finals of the WCC. Check out a big picture gallery of his photos.

Gonzaga encounters physical play

Gonzaga is taking everybody's best shot, sometimes literally, in the WCC.

Opponents have become increasingly physical trying to defend Gonzaga's main scoring options, particularly the inside tandem of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, which is understandable because the Zags play a physical brand of basketball.

That's the focus of my article that will run with our College basketball/Four Corners page in Thursday's S-R.

Zags team to beat in WCC

For the umpteenth straight season, Gonzaga is the team to beat in the WCC. For the first time in a dozen seasons, the Bulldogs are not the defending champions.

Saint Mary's broke through last year and snapped Gonzaga's WCC title streak at 11. The Gaels almost did it the year before, but GU came back from a three-game losing streak to earn a share of the crown. The WCC begins tonight with San Francisco visiting Santa Clara.

Here's my WCC preview and another from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Zags Preseason Favorites Again

Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few doesn’t long for the good old days of the West Coast Conference because, well, they weren’t always all that good. Gonzaga was tabbed WCC favorites for the umpteenth time in the coaches’ preseason poll and four Bulldogs made the 10-player All-WCC preseason team. The poll was released Monday just before the conference’s annual tip-off event in Los Angeles, where nine head coaches were joined by one of their top players for 10-minute interviews streamed live on YouTube. Coaches voted Gonzaga first, followed by BYU, defending champion Saint Mary’s, Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Santa Clara/Jim Meehan, SR. More here.

Question: Are you ready for some Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball?

Pacific to join WCC

Pacific will become the 10th member of the WCC in 2013, the conference announced this morning.

I checked in with league sources and Gonzaga's Mike Roth, who is pleased that the WCC will have an even-numbered membership, which alleviates some of scheduling issues that came into play with a nine-team conference. Much of the footwork on the expansion front was done over the past few years by the conference's expansion task force. The addition of Pacific may have snuck up on some folks, including Gonzaga, but mainly because the school's attention the last 3-4 weeks has been on conference and NCAA tournaments.

Pacific has similar enrollment to GU (roughly 7,000). The private school became financially independent from the Methodist Church in 1969. Roth told me the WCC expansion task force decided several years ago it was only interested in private institutions. In the west, that narrowed the WCC's options to BYU, Denver and Seattle (both WAC bound), Pacific, Stanford and USC. I'll go out on a limb and guess Stanford and USC weren't knocking on the WCC's door.

Here's my article on the WCC's latest expansion that will run in Thursday's S-R.

Also, it's been rumored for weeks/months that Gonzaga's Mathis Keita will transfer and I fully expect that will be the case. Keita appears on Cbssports.com's Jeff Goodman's list of D-I transfers. I checked with a Gonzaga source who said "it isn't completely done, (Keita) is looking at some options."

Gonzaga's Mathis Monninghoff, who, like Keita,saw his playing time dwindle at the '3' position, is said to be 50-50 on returning to the program.

Pacific expected to join WCC

Numerous reports this morning that Pacific will leave the Big West Conference to become the 10th member of the WCC, effective in the 2013-14 season. The move could become official as early as this afternoon. 

The WCC's membership was stable for three decades before BYU joined the conference last season. With BYU, the nine-team conference had unavoidable scheduling issues (split home-away weeks, Monday games, etc.). Conferences with even-numbered membership typically have smoother scheduling models.

Pacific was a member of the West Coast Athletic Conference (which changed its name to the WCC in 1989) from 1952-71.

More here.

BYU BB Program Mirrors Gonzaga’s

Gonzaga and BYU are accustomed to hanging conference championship banners. The Bulldogs have won 11 straight WCC men’s basketball titles, a run that will likely require two wins this week and help elsewhere to continue. The Cougars won or shared four Mountain West championships under seventh-year head coach Dave Rose prior to joining the WCC this season. The teams share second place entering Thursday’s clash at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Both are trying to keep their title hopes alive with the winner taking a huge step toward a bye into the semifinals of the WCC tournament in Las Vegas. “One of your goals at the start is you want the last week of the regular season to mean something,” Rose said/Jim Meehan, SR. More here. (AP file photo: BYU Coach Dave Rose during gestures to players during Cougars' 83-73 win over Gonzaga in Provo, Utah, Feb. 2)

Question: Although Gonzaga is in danger of having its consecutive streak of WCC basketball titles broken, do you enjoy the fact that the conference is more competitive than ever?

Gonzaga 73, Santa Clara 62

Gonzaga's guard Marquise Carter calls time after fighting for a loose ball against Santa Clara in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday. Gonzaga stopped Santa Clara 73-62 to move to within a half game of first-place St. Mary's. Jim Meehan's game story here. And: ESPN boxscore here. (AP Photo/Darryl Bush)

Loyola Marymount 75, St. Mary’s 60

Loyola Marymounts' Anthony Ireland, right, and Saint Marys' Clint Steindl chase a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday in Moraga, Calif. Visiting Loyola Marymount handed St. Mary's its second WCC loss of the season 75-60. Game story here. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Gonzaga 73, St. Mary’s 59

Saint Mary's Clint Steindl (11) passes as Gonzaga's Guy Landry Edi (10) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game tonight in Spokane. Gonzaga handed St. Mary's its first loss in WCC play, 73-59, behind 27 points by freshman Kevin Pangos. AP game story & ESPN boxscore here. (AP photo: Jed Conklin)

Area women’s basketball roundup

Local NCAA Division I women's basketball teams had a successful Saturday - with the exception of Washington State, which lost at UCLA

We were at Gonzaga today, where the Bulldogs turned up the heat in the second half and beat a defensive San Diego team. John Blanchette wrote this column on the Zag women in the post-Courtney Vandersloot era, Jesse Tinsley told the game story through his photo lens, and here's the link to my game story.

The Eastern Washington women continued their quest for a Big Sky Conference title with a win at Sacramento State and the Idaho women picked up their second Western Athletic Conference win in a late game at San Jose State.

BYU Fans Behave Versus Gonzaga

BYU fans hold up a sign during a game against Gonzaga during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Provo, Utah, Thursday. The Mormon university was embarrassed Saturday when unruly fans forced multiple stoppages in an 80-66 loss to St. Mary's by throwing debris onto the court over disputed calls. BYU jumped out to a 14-point lead at half and led by as much as 19 points in the second half last night in beating Gonzaga 83-73, defusing possible follow-up bad behavior by their fans. (AP Photo/George Frey)

Question: Time to put a fork in the 2011-12 Gonzaga men's basketball team?

Area women’s basketball teams have themselves a nice little Saturday

It was a pretty fantastic day for area women’s basketball teams.

The No. 22 Gonzaga Bulldogs avenged a rare West Coast Conference loss with a win over Saint Mary’s, Washington State pulled together for a Pac-12 victory over Arizona and the Eastern Washington women defeated Montana State to complete their first sweep of the Montana schools on the road. The Idaho women didn’t fare as well, falling to Utah State.

Golden sparkles in Gonzaga women’s win over LMU

Stephanie Golden had a career-high 15 points and the No. 22 Gonzaga women's basketball team earned a 79-61 win over Loyola Marymount at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night. As you'll see in my story, I overheard a fan throw out a horrendously obvious pun after the game. I'd like to thank that fan. After he said it, I couldn't get it out of my head. Hence, the first couple paragraphs.

Oh well.

Keep reading for more on area women's basketball teams.

Nothing but college hoop news


It was a perfect night for Inland Northwest men's college basketball teams, despite the weather. Gonzaga handled USF rather easily at home and Washington State rallied from 13 down in the second half to top Pac-12 front-runner Stanford. It wasn't as perfect for me as we spent the last part of both games away from the television set and computer snowblowing a two-block long path to allow my wife to make it home. Read on.

Zags Host Portland In WCC Opener

Portland's Ryan Nicholas, left, reaches for a ball as it goes out of bounds as Saint Louis' Brian Conklin looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 3, in St. Louis, Mo. Nicholas, a former Gonzaga Prep star, has emerged as a top scorer and rebounder for the Pilots. Gonzaga will tipoff another defense of a WCC title tonight when they host Portland. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Question: Is this the year that Gonzaga's consecutive WCC titles comes to an end?

Zags eye 8th title; Cooper leads EWU

Three of the four area Division I women's basketball teams start conference play on Thursday. That is the topic for this week's notebook, leading off with Gonzaga's quest for an eighth-straight WCC title. I also realize I neglected to link to last week's story on Eastern Washington mighty mite Chene Cooper, who leads the Big Sky in assists and is about to set the Eagle record for steals.

WCC on the upswing

An early post today because 16 hungry people are about to arrive and I've got an appointment with a deep fryer. Gonzaga isn't done with non-conference play (at Xavier on Dec. 31), but its next ball game will begin the WCC slate. Struggling Portland visits the MAC on Wednesday.

Below, you'll find my unedited WCC preview that will run on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to all!

Vandals, Spartans coming up

Idaho and San Jose State tip in about 15 minutes in the WCC men's tournament quarterfinals. In-game updates at Twitter.com/SRjimm. (Same goes for the Idaho women vs. Nevada tonight at 6).

I'll post a game story here about two hours after the final horn.

Gonzaga isn’t the only women’s BB news

I figured those of you who read this women's basketball blog were up on the news of yesterday, Gonzaga's shocking upset to win the WCC Tournament and senior guard Courtney Vandersloot someone winning a national award … OK, maybe we weren't completely sure Vandersloot would win the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Awad but there was no way the Bulldogs weren't winning. Anyway, those stories were handled by the A team in Las Vegas, including Christopher Anderson's slide show, but I was waiting to give you my last women's basketball notebook, but alas it's not posted yet and I have somethings to take care of before a hockey game tonight. Check back tonight before 7 for the notebook, in the meantime there is some news for you, so read on.

Gonzaga thumps SMC to win title

LAS VEGAS – Courtney Vandersloot scored 18 points and handed out a WCC Tournament-record 16 assists, breaking the record of 14 she set 24 hours earlier, and Gonzaga overcame a sluggish first half to throttle Saint Mary’s 72-46 in the championship game Monday at the Orleans Arena. Read more.

WCC bracket, Bjorklund shines on Senior Day

OK, I'm running a little late, but you should see the progress made on the boss' remodel project … crown molding is up. (It pays to have talented friends.)

Anyway, as promised, here's a real story on Washington State's inability to Washington. The bracket for the WCC Tournament. Angie Bjorklund (U-Hi) had a big day for Tennessee on her Senior Day (I happened to see the start on ESPNU before the work started and saw the little ceremony, someone please tell Jim Bjorklund that was one ugly, not-even-Tennessee, orange sweater!)

This week's Top 25 is below..

Zags Face Gaels In WCC Showdown

A win over Saint Mary’s, which has lost only once at home, to Utah State last Saturday, and another over San Diego on Saturday would guarantee Gonzaga (19-9, 9-3) at least a share of title No. 11, trailing only UCLA’s 13-year run (1967-79, Pac-8/10) as the longest in D-I history. GU is tied with Connecticut (1951-60, Yankee) and UNLV (1983-92, Big West). “We’ve almost climbed out of the hole, but this last little bit, the last 10 meters of this hole is probably the steepest, darkest and toughest part,” Few said. “We’ll see if we’re up to the task”/Jim Meehan, SportsLink. More here. (SR photo: Dan Pelle, of Gonzaga's Robert Sacre and Saint Marys Michael Young at The Kennel Jan. 27.)

Question: Who will win? Why?

Saint Mary’s 73, Gonzaga 71

Saint Mary's Mickey McConnell hits the winning shot over Robert Sacre to beat Gonzaga 73-71 in Spokane. Saint Mary's improves to 6-0 in West Coast Conference play, while Gonzaga drops to 3-3. (SR photo: Dan Pelle)


GU-Portland game story

A little later than usual (I drove home while waiting for the link to be posted), here's my game story and a nice photo by S-R's Jesse Tinsley of Steven Gray shooting a 3-pointer in Gonzaga's 74-61 win over Portland.

Check back tomorrow for a day-after post.