Zags open WCC play with Santa Clara

Gone are the last two seasons with occasional split weeks – one home game and one road game – and disjointed travel partners.

The addition of Pacific brought WCC membership to an even number of 10 and eliminated some scheduling issues. The result is an 18-game slate, but some quirks remain.

Gonzaga, for example, opens conference with four straight at home, all with students on holiday break, and closes with four in a row on the road, against teams that seem poised to finish in the upper echelon.

Portland opens with five games at home and seven of its last nine on the road. San Diego plays seven of its first nine away from home. San Francisco has five consecutive home games in the middle of the conference season.

The 24th-ranked Bulldogs (10-2) entertain Santa Clara Saturday night, the first of four home games in eight days.

“You have to focus on the first one and we have to get back to playing with better energy and fire than we maybe have been, which is usually the case when you’re out on the road,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Let’s see if we can put together a great effort against the Broncos.”

The WCC hired the Bortz Media & Sports Group to do the schedule (Bortz also schedules for the NBA, Pac-12 and Atlantic 10, among others). The conference office explained that ESPN’s selections and the return of travel partners can limit the flexibility to move games around.

Santa Clara (7-6) was picked eighth in the preseason poll. Starting guards Brandon Clarke (15.8), Jared Brownridge (14.7) and Evan Roquemore (11.3) contribute 41.8 of SCU’s 73.7 points per game.

“Clarke has been a really good player for them coming off the bench (in the past), Roquemore has had a really good career and it sounds like they’ve found a freshman (Brownridge) they can plug into that (Kevin) Foster-type role,” Few said.

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