By Kellan King
Number 1 is an easy one. Gonzaga was a top team in the country, and they bring back POY candidate Drew Timme along with a top recruiting class. Freshman Chet Holmgren should have a huge impact, and they also return good role players in Andrew Nembhard and Anton Watson. If Gonzaga can put it all together, they should be the favorites to not only win the WCC, but the national championship
2. Saint Marys
SMC struggled at times last year offensively, but they return almost all of their top contributors, and should have a great season. Logan Johnson showed flashes of brilliance, and should be their top scorer. Matthias Tass and Dan Fotu should anchor a very good frontcourt, and the Gaels return lots of youngsters who got good experience last year. If they can stay healthy, they should have a chance at making the NCAA tournament.
The Dons should once again have a top backcourt in the conference, led by standout Jamaree Bouyea, along with Columbia transfer Gabe Stefanini and Julian Rishwain. The Dons also return sharpshooter Dzmitry Ryuny and versatile forward Josh Kunen, and bring in transfers Patrick Tape from Duke and Yauhen Massalski from USD. If USF can get contributions from their frontcourt this year, they should be able to vault into the top 3 of the conference.
The Cougars had a great season last year, but will lose key contributors Matt Haarms and Brandon Averette. Top guard Alex Barcello will return for his 5th year, which is massive, and he should lead a top offense in the WCC. Caleb Lohner and Connor Harding will have to take on bigger roles in the offense, and they also have some young sharpshooters in Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell. If BYU can put it all together, they will most likely be higher then this prediction of 4th.
LMU got a massive boost when Eli Scott announced he was returning. Scott is the heart and soul of the team, and he will look to help improve on a surprise 2020 season. The Lions return most of their contributors from last year. At times, LMU struggled with turnovers last year, so if they are able to take care of the ball and get good production from their guards, they should be able to have another good season
6. Santa Clara
After the top 5, I believe there is a pretty big drop off. The Broncos lose big man Josip Vrankic, along with some other of their key players. They do however bring back Gugielmo Caruso and Jalen Williams who both had good seasons. They will also need Keshawn Justice to return to his sophomore form, but after those 3, there are a lot of question marks. They will need those 3 to really step up if they want to have a good season.
The Waves lose 2 amazing players in Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards, and it will be tough for them to replace their production. They will bring back Jade’ Smith, who I believe will be one of the top guards in the conference. They also have some solid role players in Jan Sidek and Victor Ohia Obioha. There will be a lot of questions inside, as this was a team that struggled there last year, and didn’t bring in a ton of big men.
8. San Diego
This may be a surprise, San Diego not in the bottom 2, however I believe USD has some good pieces. Joey Calcatarra is a top guard in the conference, and they have a solid core around him with guys like Finn Sullivan and Vladimir Pinchuk. They will need some of these role players to step up and score though if they want to take a real step forward this year, because if they only rely on Calcaterra to score, they won’t have enough.
The Tigers have a great backcourt in Pierre Cockrell and Daniss Jenkins, but beyond that its slim pickings. Pacific loses most of their other key players, and just don’t really have any size on the inside. They are really going to have to lean heavily on their backcourt, and I just don’t know if they can carry the burden. Its tough to bet against Damon Stoudamire, but I have to put them here.
Another year, another bad Portland team. This actually was one of the more talented Pilot teams, and they bring back some guys in Eddie Davis, Latrell Jones, and Isiah Dasher. They will be able to shoot and score, but they will have a tough time stringing stops together. The Pilots goal under new coach Shantay Legans should be to win multiple conference games.