By Kellan King
10. Portland Pilots
Portland has had a rough couple years, only winning 1 conference game in the past 2 seasons combined. They have shown some improvement though, and this year they could take another step, as they return all but 1 rotational piece. The Pilots could up to 5 conference games this year, but I don’t see them anywhere but the cellar of the WCC in the near future.
9. LMU Lions
LMU will ride Eli Scott as far as he can take them. The senior is one of the best players in the conference, and has the potential to get even better. Unfortunately for first year head coach Stan Johnson, the pieces just aren’t there around Scott. Unless the young pieces take big leaps, I just don’t see LMU competing with the better teams in the conference.
8. San Diego Toreros
USD was 9th last year, and they are another team that has a shot to take a leap. USD also returns all but 1 rotation pieces, and also bring in 2 transfers from Power 5 schools. I think they will take a step forward, and if the backcourt of Braun Hartfield and Joey Calcatara can take another leap, I believe the Toreros compete with the middle of the pack in the WCC.
7. Pacific Tigers
After a breakthrough season under emerging coach Damon Stoudamire, I think the Tigers will take a step back. They lose star Jahlil Tripp, and 2 other key contributors. I think they will struggle early on to find an identity, but I believe that coach Stoudamire will keep them competitive, and is building a culture.
6. Santa Clara Broncos
Santa Clara will a veteran team, led by senior big man Josep Vrankic. The Broncos were solid last year, winning 20 games, but only 6 games in conference play. I think the Broncos will take another step forward, and should have one of the more experienced teams in the conference.
5. Saint Marys Gaels
Saint Marys has consistently been one of the best teams in the conference, and I think they will get back there, but this year they will almost certainly take a step back. They lose one of the best guards in the country, Jordan Ford, and second leading scorer Malik Fitts. Coach Randy Bennet should be able to keep SMC in the top half of the conference, but it would be wishful thinking to project SMC as high as last year.
4. Pepperdine Waves
Pepperdine has one of the best guards in the country in Colbey Ross, and if the supporting cast can step up, they can take a big leap this year. They only lose 1 starter, and bring in 3 star recruit Kendall Munson. If all of the young players around Ross can take a leap, Pepperdine could be one of the best teams in this conference.
3. USF Dons
USF is one the rising mid majors in the country, and I think they will continue to improve this year. They have in my opinion the best backcourt in the conference in Bouyea and Shabazz, and have good depth at guard. They bring back a lot of young players who could improve a lot. If they can get solid production out of the frontcourt, they could compete and be a top 3 team in the conference.
2. BYU Cougars
BYU had one of their best seasons ever last year, and were on track to have a good NCAA tournament run when it was cancelled. Although they lose almost all of the production from team, they should reload. They bring in big man Matt Haarms, maybe the most coveted transfers. They will need Haarms and other young guys like Gavin Baxter to step up if they want to continue to build a culture under Mark Pope.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is not only number 1 in the WCC, but number 1 in the country in my opinion. They bring back Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, and bring in top recruit Jalen Suggs. Although they lose big man Filip Petrusev, they have Drew Timme and Oumour Ballo, nicknamed Baby Shaq, who’s rumored to be even better then Petrusev. The Zags should dominate conference play, and should be one of the funnest teams to watch in the country.