By Kellan King
Gonzaga is the clear and obvious number 1. They were the top team in the country for most of last year, and return guys like Drew Timme and Julian Strawther. They also bring in 20 ppg scorer Malachi Smith from Chattanooga, and former 5 star recruit Efton Reid from LSU. The Zags should be excellent once again.
- Saint Mary’s
The Gaels had one of their best seasons ever last year, finishing in the top 25 and winning a tournament game. They lose key guys like Tommy Kuhse and Mathias Tass, but Alex Ducas should take another step forward, and promising youngsters Augustas Marciulionis and Mitchell Saxen should help SMC stay near the top of the WCC.
- San Francisco
The Dons made the tournament for the first time in 25 years last year, but they lose one of their best players ever in Jamaree Bouyea. The Dons reloaded though, bringing in 4 transfers, including 15 ppg scorer Toni Rocak from UCSD and former 4 star recruit Marcus Williams from Texas A&M. If the Dons new pieces can fit alongside Khalil Shabazz, the Dons could compete for another NCAA Tournament berth.
For a long time, BYU has been the 2nd best team in the conference, but this year they could take a step back. They lose star guard Alex Barcello, and other contributors like Te’Jon Lucas and Caleb Lohner also depart. The Cougars still have enough talent to stay in the upper half of the WCC, and if big man Fousseyni Traore can improve on a stellar Freshman year, they could surprise some people.
Portland had an amazing season last year, their best in a long time, and they should take another step forward. They bring everyone back, guys like Tyler Robertson and Moses Wood, and have one of the best young coaches in the country in Shantay Legans. The Pilots should be a team on the rise, and a team to look out for.
- Santa Clara
The Broncos had a great year behind possible first round pick Jalen Williams, but they lose him and their other leader Josip Vrankic. They have some good young players in Carlos Stewart and Parker Braun, and Keyshawn Justice also returns, but they should take a step back from their 3rd place finish last year.
This may seem high after the Waves last place finish last year, but they have an amazing young core. Houston Mallette was one of the best Freshman in the conference last year, Mike Mitchell shot 40% from 3 as a Freshman, and big man Jan Zidek is a solid force in the frontcourt. The Waves should improve on last years rebuilding campaign.
- San Diego
The Toreros had a somewhat disappointing year, and hired a new, big name coach in Steve Lavin. He brought in some transfers like Jaden Delaire from Stanford to pair alongside young guys like Bryce Monroe and Wayne McKinney. USD should be a program to look out for, but the improvement might not come this year.
The Waves took a step back when Damon Stoudamire left as Head Coach, and I’m not sure they will turn it around this year. They finished 8th last year, and lose leading scorers Alphonso Anderson and Jeremiah Bailey. Young guys like Nick Blake and Sam Freeman will have to step up if the Tigers want to improve.
After a successful covid year campaign, the Lions had a disappointing year last year, and unfortunately for Coach Stan Johnson, they lose the rock of the program in Eli Scott, and also lose their starting backcourt. If they want to prove me wrong, they will need contributions from guys like Jalen Anderson and Lamaj Lewis.