By Teddy Solomon
College basketball never stops. Whether it’s the offseason, the middle of a global pandemic, or March Madness, there is always something happening in the NCAA basketball world. This is especially true in the West Coast Conference, with transfers and new recruits constantly changing the entire landscape of the league. It’s been a summer full of BYU making serious moves, stars from around the league transferring to high-major programs, and Gonzaga doing Gonzaga things. Today, in my 2020-2021 Way-Too-Early WCC Power Rankings, I will tell you where I think every team stands.
#1: Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags are set to be one of the best teams in the nation next season, even with quite a bit of uncertainty regarding who will return and who will go pro. Three players, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, and Filip Petrusev, are deciding if they want to go to the NBA or return to play for the Bulldogs, and their decisions will be immensely impactful. Petrusev, the 2019-2020 WCC Player of the Year, would be especially important for this Gonzaga team, especially considering the losses of Admon Gilder, Ryan Woolridge, and probably most notably, Killian Tillie. Regardless, Gonzaga has Jalen Suggs coming in, who is the highest ranked recruit in the history Gonzaga’s program, and all eyes will be on him next season. No matter what Petrusev, Kispert, and Ayayi decide, the Zags are the clear favorite to win the WCC.
#2: BYU Cougars
Earlier in the offseason, if you had told me that BYU was going to be the second best team in the league next season, I would have laughed. Now, if you said anything other than number two, I would be equally shocked. BYU has had an absolutely ridiculous offseason, including the additions of 7’3 Purdue grad transfer Matt Haarms, star Utah Valley guard Brandon Averette, and former Utah commit Caleb Lohner. This Cougars squad did graduate seven seniors including Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws, but with Harding, Barcello, Baxter, Lee, Haarms, Averette, etc. they could be almost as good (or even as good) as they were last season. I have this very deep BYU team safely in the second spot of my Way-Too-Early WCC Power Rankings.
#3: San Francisco Dons
Earlier in the offseason, I saw the Dons as the favorite to get second in the conference, but with the departure of star Charles Minlend and all the additions Coach Pope and BYU have made, I think there is a substantial gap between the Dons and the Cougars. USF will bring back lots of talent, including Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. The Dons will also have Khalil Shabazz and Damari Milstead, who are immensely talented players coming off of their redshirt seasons. Coach Golden will also welcome a talented group of freshmen and transfers, highlighted by the newest addition, NorCal player of the year Anthony Roy. USF is set to be a good team in the 2020-2021 season, but I can’t say confidently that they have NCAA Tournament potential.
#4: Pepperdine Waves
The Waves are my sleeper. With arguably the best guard in the league, Colbey Ross, leading this team, anything is possible. Ross averaged 20.5 ppg and 7.2 assists per game in the 2019-2020 season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he averaged 25+ ppg next season. Unfortunately for Pepperdine, Kameron Edwards has graduated, and his leadership and skills will be missed. However, his brother Kessler Edwards continues to improve, and will probably average 15+ ppg next season. Pepperdine is a well-coached, talented, underrated team, and they will be able to compete with anyone, maybe even securing a top three WCC finish.
#5: St. Mary’s Gaels
St. Mary’s is losing huge talent, including star point guard Jordan Ford and his right-hand man Malik Fitts. Quite frankly, I am not sold on Randy Bennett’s rebuilding attempts so far this offseason, and I foresee a very bad season for the Gaels. They have had nowhere near as successful of an offseason as BYU, and to be completely honest, I even considered moving them down to 6th. However, the national strength of this program in past years urges me to believe Coach Bennett will make some magic happen, and I can’t yet justify any team in the bottom half of the conference finishing ahead of the Gaels.
#6: San Diego Toreros
The Toreros struggled this past season, but it was a rebuilding year. After losing phenomenal players like Isaiah Pineiro and Olin Carter III, Coach Scholl did not have much to work with. However, he has picked up some impressive players and has not lost a huge amount, suggesting that a sixth place (or better) finish may be in the works. Transfers Frankie Hughes, Yavuz Gultekin, and Josh Parrish will undoubtedly be big assets for this San Diego squad, so watch out for the Toreros, who are my second sleeper (in addition to Pepperdine) in the WCC.
#7: Loyola Marymount Lions
I’m torn on the Lions. Some days I think they’ll finish sixth, some days I think they’ll finish eighth, but today we’ll put them right in the middle at number seven. LMU is going through a coaching transition, and that’s part of why I have some doubts. New Head Coach Stan Johnson is surely a good coach, but it’s never easy for a team to change coaches. Despite picking up some solid players and bringing back others from injury, I don’t think LMU will have the starpower or cohesiveness to compete with the best teams in the league, but who knows? Anything is possible in college basketball.
#8: Santa Clara Broncos
Santa Clara is one of those teams that has lost a lot since last season, and for that reason I think they will really struggle next season. I would argue that Santa Clara’s biggest loss is Trey Wertz, who is headed to play ACC basketball at Notre Dame. Santa Clara did have some sparks of brilliance last season and isn’t losing everyone, so I’m ready to be shocked again. With that being said, I don’t necessarily know that we’ll see a road win against St. Mary’s again.
#9: Pacific Tigers
Pacific had a dream season this past year. They upset St. Mary’s, they finished in the top four of a very good WCC, and they had the WCC Defensive Player of the Year in Jahlil Tripp. Sometimes good things come to an end, though. Tripp, who averaged 16.2 ppg and was of course an elite defender, has graduated. Especially considering that Gary Chivichyan has graduated beside Tripp, I don’t see a clear leader for the Tigers, and they quite frankly do not have anywhere near the talent they had last season. I don’t think they’ll finish in last, but I also don’t see them getting close to a top-five WCC finish.
#10: Portland Pilots
Portland has become a bit too comfortable in the tenth spot of the WCC. A conference victory for the Pilots has become extremely rare, and they aren’t exactly getting better. Last season Portland showed some promise after almost taking down Gonzaga (okay maybe not quite “almost”) and then taking down the Dons. With Portland losing star Isaiah White, I could see them being worse than last season. Regardless, I’m relatively confident that the Pilots will see yet another last place WCC finish.