A conference that had enjoyed little parody in past seasons was chock full of just that in 2007-08. The WCC, which is looked at as a one man race almost every year, had three teams in the NCAA tournament for the first time in its existence (the surprise team being San Diego, who went on to upset Connecticut in the first round). This year it’s very possible that this conference could have those same three teams back in the NCAA, and it will once again be a tight race for the top spot in the WCC.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs- How do you pick against Gonzaga? Jeremy Pargo is one of the top point guards in the nation. Austin Daye and Steven Gray, both stellar freshman, have another year of experience under their belts. Matt Bouldin is a major force at shooting guard, Josh Heytvelt looks to be back at 100%, and then throw in the supporting cast: Micah Downs, Robert Sacre, and freshmen Demetri Goodson and Grant Gibbs. Not only is this team the cream of the crop in the WCC, but they are also a Final Four candidate.
2. San Diego Toreros- This team didn’t lose one player from last year’s roster that upset UConn in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Led by guard Brandon Johnson and forward Gyno Pomare, I believe that San Diego will sneak into the top 25 throughout the season and probably get an at-large bid to the tourney. Bill Grier showed that he is a great coach, and supporting players Trumaine Johnson, Devin Ginty, and Rob Jones will also be major contributors on the court. San Diego has a hard non-conference schedule: at UNLV, vs. Oregon, at Mississippi State and they will be partaking in the Paradise Jam Tournament.
3. Saint Mary’s Gaels- Don’t sleep on the Gaels. Sure, they started the year strong and wilted at the end but they still are a force to be reckoned with and are returning a large portion of their roster. Patrick Mills, Diamon Simpson, Omar Samhan, and Ian O’Leary are all back and they can lead this team to a possible WCC title. To do that they need supporting players to step up in big games. Some publications have even picked Saint Mary’s ahead of Gonzaga, such as Blue Ribbon which has Saint Mary’s 19th and Gonzaga at 21st. I won’t go quite that far, but I do believe that Saint Mary’s will be back in the NCAA tournament in 2009.
4. San Francisco Dons- This is where you see a major drop-off in terms of depth. The WCC is a three team league, and no other team can contend with Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga’s, and San Diego’s depth. San Francisco is close, but only because they have a stellar player in Dior Lowhorn, one of the most underrated players in the nation. However, he won’t be enough to top any of the top three when it comes to tournament time.
5. Santa Clara Broncos- This team gave the Zags some trouble last season, but they lost a lot of players to graduation. The only player that can make noise on this team is John Bryant, who can be a force in the post.
6. Pepperdine Waves- Led by Sophomore Tyrone Shelley, an explosive guard, this team could upset somebody if they learned how to play defense.
7. Portland Pilots- Once again this proves how bad the WCC is at the bottom. Nik Raivio is the only player that the Pilots have to offer for opposing defenses.
8. Loyola Marymount Lions- Had a very rough season last year, and won’t be anywhere near the top this season.
WCC First Team:
G- Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga- Player of the Year)
G- Brandon Johnson (San Diego)
G- Patrick Mills (Saint Mary’s)
F- Gyno Pomare (San Diego)
F- Dior Lowhorn (San Francisco)
F- Austin Daye (Gonzaga)
F- Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga)
F- Omar Samhan (Saint Mary’s)
F- Diamon Simpson (Saint Mary’s)
c- John Bryant (Santa Clara)
Coach of the Year- Mark Few (Gonzaga)
Newcomer of the Year- Roberto Mafras (San Diego)