Gonzaga will have single games this season against San Diego and Pacific and tangle with the remaining seven West Coast Conference teams twice, including Portland for the first time since the 16-game scheduling format was adopted five years ago.
The Zags, who hammered the Tigers 89-51 in Spokane last February, will visit Pacific this season. Last year’s game in Stockton, California, was called off due to COVID-19 protocols in the Tigers’ program.
Gonzaga will entertain San Diego. It’s the second season in a row the Zags and Toreros will meet just once. The Toreros, routed by GU 92-62 in San Diego last season, are under the direction of new head coach Steve Lavin, the former UCLA and St. John’s head coach.
The WCC opted to trim the league schedule from 18 to 16 games, along with other scheduling adjustments, prior to the 2019 season in hopes of landing additional berths in the NCAA Tournament. The results: two berths in 2019 and 2021 and three last season, equaling the most in WCC history (2012 and 2008). The 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled in response to the pandemic.
The 16-game schedule is based on teams’ NET rankings in recent seasons, last year’s WCC Tournament seeding and a spring survey of the conference’s 10 head coaches. Dates for all WCC games and television schedules will be announced later this summer.
The Zags have won 14 straight against Portland, including a 104-72 blowout last January at the McCarthey Athletic Center, but the Pilots made significant improvement under first-year coach Shantay Legans last season. The former Eastern Washington head coach guided the Pilots to a 19-15 record, earned the program’s first postseason win and matched the fourth most wins in school history as a Division I program.
Portland was the sixth seed in the conference tournament after being picked last (10th) in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Pilots defeated San Diego before falling to Santa Clara. They defeated New Orleans in The Basketball Classic before a season-ending loss to Southern Utah.
Gonzaga will tangle twice with fellow 2022 NCAA Tournament participants Saint Mary’s and San Francisco. Gonzaga split with Saint Mary’s in the regular season before handling the Gaels 82-69 in the WCC Tournament championship game. The Zags went 3-0 against the Dons, including an 81-71 win in the tournament semifinals.
The Gaels (26-8) finished second in the WCC standings and lost in the second round of March Madness. USF (24-10) lost in the opening round to Murray State in overtime.
The Zags also will face 2022 NIT participants BYU and Santa Clara home and away. BYU, which will join the Big 12 Conference in July 2023, finished 24-11 after falling to Washington State in the NIT quarterfinals. Santa Clara (21-12) lost to WSU in the opening round of the NIT.
The WCC Tournament will be March 2-7 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
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