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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga will begin, end WCC schedule on the road

Gonzaga coach Mark Few reacts during the first half of a West Coast Conference home game against San Diego last season.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga will start and close its West Coast Conference men’s basketball schedule on the road, including a regular-season finale against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, California.

The WCC on Wednesday released the conference schedule, which begins Dec. 30 with the Zags visiting San Diego, followed by a road contest against Loyola Marymount on New Year’s Day.

The Zags’ conference home opener is against San Francisco on Jan. 6, followed by a Jan. 8 visit from Pepperdine.

Gonzaga’s only split week (one home game, one road game) features BYU on Jan. 13 at the McCarthey Athletic Center and a road trip to face Santa Clara on Jan. 15. GU students will be on holiday break for the first home stand, but they’ll be back for the BYU contest.

Gonzaga has two one-game weeks. The Zags have an open Saturday two days after facing Pacific in Stockton, California, on Jan. 20. They have an open Thursday two days before entertaining Santa Clara on Feb. 19.

Gonzaga’s toughest stretch will probably be its last six games, beginning with BYU on Feb. 5 in Provo, Utah. That’s followed by home games against Pacific, Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara before closing the regular season at San Francisco on Feb. 24 and Saint Mary’s on Feb. 26.

This will be the fourth season with a 16-game WCC schedule adopted to enhance the conference’s chances of earning multiple NCAA Tournament berths.

The Zags face everyone twice except San Diego, in the conference opener, and Portland, under the direction of former Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans, on Jan. 29 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Game times and television details will be announced at a later date.

The Zags are heavy favorites to win their 10th consecutive WCC regular-season title. Gonzaga received nine of 10 first-place votes – coaches presumably weren’t allowed to vote for their own team – for 81 points in the spring coaches’ poll. BYU, which received one first-place vote, edged Saint Mary’s by two points for second place.

Loyola Marymount was picked fourth, followed by San Francisco, Santa Clara, Pepperdine, Pacific, San Diego and Portland.

The WCC Tournament is March 3-8 in Las Vegas.