Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gonzaga Tops in WCC Preseason Poll

Gonzaga has been the face of the West Coast Conference since the days of Calvary, Santangelo, and Dickau. During the subsequent years, the WCC has been looked at as an inferior conference. This is no longer the case. Recently, programs like Saint Mary's and San Diego have cemented their respective places in the national picture. Think about it, the two most recent basketball related stories in the WCC have not come from Spokane, Washington. San Diego had an excellent showing in last year's NCAA tournament, defeating UConn in one of the most exciting games of the tournament. This summer, Patty Mills blew up at the Olympic games in China. Both these stories have brought some welcome notoriety to the conference.

Today in Las Vegas was the WCC's media day and the day in which they voted on preseason rankings and All-Conference players. Everyone expected the preseason poll to be tight and that proved to be true as the Zags narrowly escaped with the #1 spot.

2008-09 WCC Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Gonzaga - 46 (5)
2. Saint Mary's - 44 (2)
3. San Diego - 39 (1)
4. Santa Clara - 30
5. San Francisco - 23
6. Portland - 19
7. Loyola Marymount - 12
8. Pepperdine - 11
(First place votes)

This poll should bring smiles to the faces of everyone who has had to hear about how bad the public thinks the WCC is. Gonzaga is one of the national favorites to make a title run. If the Zags were expected to make a deep title run five years ago, they would be the dominating favorite to win the WCC but that is not how the West Coast Conference works anymore. Gonzaga aims to win every conference game in plays in. The strength of their non-conference schedule shows that they expect this, otherwise they would do the same thing so many other big time programs do and schedule a bunch of non-conference "cupcakes". Now, Mark Few and the staff is coupling a difficult non-conference schedule with a excruciating conference schedule. Make no mistake, this will be the toughest roads the Zags have had to travel in quite some time.

Another thing that can be gathered from this poll is the overall depth that the WCC is starting to have. I believe that next year this preseason poll could look a whole lot different. Loyola Marymount, who is slated at 7th in the preseason poll, should be in the top 3 next year with the kind of talent they are bringing in. Santa Clara and San Francisco have historically always given Gonzaga fits. The amount of "easy wins" on Gonzaga's schedule is greatly diminishing each and every year. The conference sent 3 teams to the tournament last season and I don't think it was a fluke. There will definitely be two teams in the tournament in my opinion and you never know what will happen in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

The coaches also voted on the All-Conference squads in Vegas. Here's how they voted.

2008-09 WCC Men's Preseason All-Conference Team
Matt Bouldin, GON
John Bryant, SCU
Austin Daye, GON
Brandon Johnson, USD
Dior Lowhorn, USF
Patrick Mills, SMC
Jeremy Pargo, GON
Gyno Pomare, USD
Omar Samhan, SMC
Diamon Simpson, SMC

It's hard to argue with that list of players. I definitely know that there are two players in Spokane that have the talent to crack that list. Steven Gray and Micah Downs, if they perform up to their talent level and expectations, should make a strong push for some sort of postseason recognition. Each of those players has way too much talent to not receive accolades. Gray was sidelined early with that wrist injury and Micah has also be often injured during his time at Gonzaga but now they are both 100% healthy and should be ready to contribute early and often. I'm not sure who you could take off that list though. Players like Dior Lowhorn and Diamon Simpson could challenge for WCC Player of the Year. You have to think the favorites in the clubhouse right now are Jeremy Pargo and Patty Mills. Don't forget about Brandon Johnson either, he is one of the most exciting basketball players on the west coast.

It's all good for the WCC. Last year was a real statement year for the conference and this season will definitely prove that it was no fluke. What I keep thinking about is whether or not Gonzaga will be tops next season...but I guess we'll take it one year a time.

1 comment:

...roofio... said...

I'm not surprised that the coaches forgot about Heytvelt, but you didn't even mention him when you talked about 'others' from GU that could make a case for postseason awards.

If Heytvelt returns to form he should be a lock at first team all conference. This is the same form, that a few years ago, had Heytvelt considered a sure-fire lottery pick.