In news that seemed to fly under the radar in many circles, the West Coast Conference released its 2013 conference schedule on Thursday.
The WCC earned three NCAA tournament bids last season, with champion Saint Mary’s being joined by Gonzaga and BYU in the field.
The Cougars pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in NCAA tournament history to beat Iona before falling to Marquette, and Gonzaga also won a game as they beat West Virginia.
The Bulldogs and Gaels both had their seasons ended by Big Ten opponents, with Gonzaga losing to Ohio State and Saint Mary’s losing a close one to Purdue.
The question heading into the 2012-13 season is whether or not the WCC can once again get three teams into the field, and based on the returnees there shouldn’t be much doubt that the league can.
And that’s what should make for an entertaining run through league play, with games beginning on January 2nd (San Francisco at Santa Clara).
Loyola Marymount begins the opening weekend of conference play on the road, as they visit BYU on January 3rd and Saint Mary’s on January 5th.
The Lions are led by one of the best point guards on the west coast in senior Anthony Ireland, and LMU won seven of their eight WCC road games last season with the lone defeat coming at Gonzaga.
Gonzaga opens league play on the road as well, taking on Pepperdine (January 3) and Santa Clara (January 5) that first weekend.
The Bulldogs host Saint Mary’s on January 10th in the first meeting of the WCC’s “big three” on January 10th, with the home team winning both regular season meetings last year.
Two of the early favorites for WCC Player of the Year should be on display, as Gonzaga’s Elias Harris and Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova are both back for their senior seasons.
A few other games that stick out at first glance include:
Saint Mary’s at BYU (January 16): Saint Mary’s swept the regular season series last year, beating BYU 80-66 on January 28. The match-up between Dellavedova and BYU’s Matt Carlino will be one to watch, but the battle in the paint featuring BYU’s Brandon Davies and Saint Mary’s Brad Waldow should not be ignored.
BYU at Gonzaga (January 24): Dave Rose’s Cougars won just one of their four regular season games against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s last season. This could be a big one for them if they’re to contend in the WCC.
Gonzaga at San Diego (February 2): With their top four scorers from last season returning, the Toreros are capable of giving teams fits in the WCC this season. Do they have enough to challenge the Bulldogs?
Saint Mary’s at Loyola Marymount (February 16): LMU dropped a 71-64 decision to the Gaels last season but the Lions evened the score in the second meeting, beating the Gaels 75-60 in Moraga. And in Ireland and Dellavedova two of the best point guards will be on display.
Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.