The 2012-13 season was one of great accomplishment for the West Coast Conference. Sure many will remember the fact that Gonzaga was knocked off by Wichita State in the NCAA tournament, but the fact remains that the Bulldogs were at one point ranked number one in the country and also earned the first one-seed in program history.
Also of note were three other programs participating in postseason play: CBI champion Santa Clara, Postseason NIT semifinalist BYU and NCAA tournament participant Saint Mary’s. With Pacific, which represented the Big West in last year’s tournament, joining the fold the WCC will be a ten-team league this season. On Tuesday the WCC released its conference schedule for the 2013-14 season, with league play beginning on December 28.
Some games on the slate that stick out:
- Saint Mary’s at Pacific (December 30): The Tigers, who were a member of the West Coast Athletic Conference (precursor to the WCC) until moving to the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (which eventually became the Big West) in 1969, play their first game as a member of the WCC. Bob Thomason may have retired but new head coach Ron Verlin takes over a team with seven seniors and three juniors. Hosting Saint Mary’s, which will be a contender despite the graduation of Matthew Dellavedova, is a good early test for Pacific.
- Saint Mary’s at Gonzaga (January 2): Why’s the above game so important for the Gaels if they’re to have a shot at winning the WCC? They visit the defending champs a couple nights later. Gonzaga may have lost Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk in the front court but Mark Few’s team is loaded on the perimeter. The key to their long-term hopes (both within and outside of the WCC): the improvement of center Przemek Karnowski.
- BYU at Santa Clara (January 18): Kerry Keating does have to account for the graduation of guard Kevin Foster and forward Marc Trasolini but senior guard Evan Roquemore is back to lead the way. BYU doesn’t lack for talent with guard Tyler Haws and center Nate Austin back in Provo, with the hope for head coach Dave Rose being that they’ll earn a return trip to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season.
- Gonzaga at San Diego (February 22): Gonzaga survived last year’s meeting at Jenny Craig Pavilion, winning 65-63 despite USD getting 21 points from guard Johnny Dee. Dee and Christopher Anderson form one of the WCC’s best perimeter tandems, with Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. likely being the best.
- Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s (March 1): The last time a school other than Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s won at least a share of the WCC regular season title: 2002, when Pepperdine finished tied atop the standings with Gonzaga (13-1). So looking at the recent history of the conference, not to mention how good this rivalry’s been, it’s obvious that a lot will be on the line in Moraga.
After wrapping up the regular season on March 1, the WCC tournament will once again be played at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas from March 6-11.