The selection of Gonzaga as preseason favorites to win the WCC – one of the annual rites of fall – is back for the 19th time in the last 20 seasons.
The Zags, who are in the running for No. 1 in national preseason polls, collected a maximum nine-first place votes and 81 points, according to the WCC coaches’ poll released Monday. BYU was a distant second with one first-place vote – coaches aren’t permitted to vote for their own team, indicating the Cougars received GU coach Mark Few’s vote – and 69 points.
The preseason poll has usually been followed by an annual rite of early spring as the Zags have captured eight consecutive regular-season titles and won or shared 19 of the last 20.
Saint Mary’s was third with 63 points and Pepperdine fourth with 57. San Francisco rounded out the top five with 52 points, followed by Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, San Diego and Portland.
Senior Corey Kispert, junior Joel Ayayi and sophomore Drew Timme were named to the 10-player preseason All-WCC team. Incoming freshmen and transfers are not eligible for consideration.
Kispert was first-team All-WCC last year and a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award. Ayayi was honorable mention All-WCC last year before earning WCC Tournament MVP honors. Timme, the lone sophomore on this year’s preseason team, made the All-Freshman team a year ago.
All three Zags are solid candidates for WCC player of the year honors. They’re joined on the preseason team by Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards, BYU’s Alex Barcello, Saint Mary’s Matthias Tass, San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea, Santa Clara’s Josip Vrankic and LMU’s Eli Scott.
The Zags (31-2 overall) cruised to the WCC title last year with a 15-1 record and were poised to be a No. 1 seed and open the NCAA Tournament at the Spokane Arena before the tourney was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. BYU finished second at 13-3 and joined Saint Mary’s as projected single-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga and Baylor have occupied the No. 1 spot in most way-too-early preseason polls.
BYU lost standout seniors Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Jake Toolson, but the Cougars added a pair of key grad transfers in point guard Brandon Averette from Utah Valley and center Matt Haarms from Purdue.
Saint Mary’s also absorbed big losses – All-WCC guard Jordan Ford graduated and forward Malik Fitts opted to turn pro – and will rely on Tass, who is coming off a torn ACL, and returners Tommy Kuhse, Logan Johnson, Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen and Dan Fotu.
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