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October 20, 2010

League preview: West Coast Conference

We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.

The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.

13. West Coast

By Steve Megargee

Don't expect much of a change atop the West Coast Conference standings. Gonzaga remains the class of the league while Saint Mary's continues to provide the toughest competition.

Behind those two teams, though, things could shake up quite a bit.

Portland went 21-11 last season and earned a CIT berth for the second consecutive season, but the Pilots return only one starter and could take a step backward. Santa Clara and Pepperdine each lost 20 games last season, but they return veteran lineups and should make a move forward.

Gonzaga remains the clear-cut favorite to win the league's regular-season title for an 11th consecutive season. Gonzaga returns its top two scorers in 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Elias Harris and 6-5 senior guard Steven Gray. The Zags also brings back their starting point guard (Demetri Goodson) and center (Robert Sacre) from a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.

Saint Mary's beat Gonzaga in the WCC tournament last season and advanced to the Sweet 16, but the Gaels could struggle to replace 2009-10 WCC scoring leader Omar Samhan. Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova form an outstanding backcourt duo, but Samhan's departure leaves a giant hole in the frontcourt.

If any other team manages to contend with Gonzaga or Saint Mary's for conference supremacy, it's going to be Loyola Marymount. The Lions return four starters from a squad that went 18-16 and was one of the nation's most improved teams. Drew Viney and Vernon Teel give Loyola Marymount a quality inside-outside duo.

F Elias Harris, Gonzaga (6-7/245, Sr.)
F Drew Viney, Loyola Marymount (6-8/210, Jr.)
G Keion Bell, Pepperdine (6-3/200, Jr.)
G Steven Gray, Gonzaga (6-5/205, Sr.)
G Vernon Teel, Loyola Marymount (6-4/190, Sr.)
C Robert Sacre, Gonzaga (7-0/260, Jr.)
F Marc Trasolini, Santa Clara (6-9/235, Jr.)
G Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's (6-4/190, Soph.)
G Kevin Foster, Santa Clara (6-2/220, Soph.)
G Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary's (6-0/190, Sr.)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: F Elias Harris, Gonzaga
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: G Tim Douglas, Portland (5-10/155, Fr.)

1. Gonzaga
2. Saint Mary's
3. Loyola Marymount
4. Santa Clara
5. Portland
6. Pepperdine
7. San Francisco
8. San Diego

Best frontcourt: Gonzaga
Best backcourt: Saint Mary's
Coach on the rise: Portland's Eric Reveno
Coach on the hot seat: Santa Clara's Kerry Keating
Most underrated player: G Kevin Foster, Santa Clara

New coaches: None
Regular-season winner last season: Gonzaga
Tourney winner last season: Saint Mary's
League RPI rank in each of past three seasons: 13th in 2009-10, 15th in 2008-09, 14th in 2007-08
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2010, Saint Mary's reached regional semifinals as a No. 10 seed and Gonzaga advanced to second round as a No. 8 seed
2011 conference tournament: March 6-8, Las Vegas

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