Gonzaga will face seven West Coast Conference men’s basketball foes twice and play Portland and Pepperdine once next season under the conference’s new scheduling format.
The WCC President’s Council approved the switch from 18 games to 16 – along with several other scheduling adjustments – to help boost the conference’s chances of landing more berths in postseason tournaments.
The 2019 conference slate was formulated using multiyear team RPI, last year’s WCC Tournament seedings and a spring survey of the league’s 10 head coaches.
Gonzaga was in favor of scheduling changes, as well as other measures adopted by the conference that were factors in the Zags’ decision to turn down overtures from the Mountain West Conference and remain in the WCC.
The Zags’ solo games will be at Portland, ninth last season, and home against last-place Pepperdine. The Pilots and Waves, who will lose their biggest crowd of the season without Gonzaga on their home schedule, were among the bottom three in the 2017 standings.
Portland hasn’t finished in the upper half of the WCC since it was an eight-team conference in 2010. Pepperdine was fourth in 2016 but struggled the last two years, prompting the exit of coach Marty Wilson. Former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar replaced Wilson.
In theory, Gonzaga won’t endure as much RPI damage by missing two expected lower-echelon teams. Two fewer WCC games also provide the Zags an opportunity to bolster their nonconference schedule. GU has nonconference dates set with Washington, Texas A&M, Tennessee, North Carolina and Creighton, and faces three games at the Maui Invitational.
Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga’s primary WCC challenger since 2004, will have single games against visiting Portland and at Loyola Marymount, which was eighth last season.
BYU, which has finished second or third every year since joining the WCC in 2012, has single games vs. seventh-place Santa Clara (home) and Pepperdine (away). The Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak at Firestone Fieldhouse last season.
The new scheduling system essentially eliminates travel partners. Those were basically absent the past two seasons with an 18-game conference schedule condensed into a nine-week span to avoid pre-Christmas WCC matchups. Travel partners could have returned in 2019 with a 10-week scheduling window.
Dates for WCC games haven’t been announced, but the conference season will begin Jan. 3.
The Zags have won 17 outright or shared WCC titles in the last 18 seasons.