West Coast Conference Basketball: 2015-2016 Season Preview
A new year in college basketball brings new conference predictions, including picks to win the league as well as the Player and Coach of the year picks in the conference.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been the kings of the West Coast for the last few years, so is there anybody that can dethrone the Zags? The WCC is Gonzaga’s conference to lose. Now having said that, here are my predictions for the 2015-2016 West Coast Conference basketball season.
NOTE: The WCC is not a power conference, besides Gonzaga, there is maybe only one or two teams that could possibly get an NCAA Tournament bid this season.
- Gonzaga– Surprise, Surprise, The Zags are the top team in the WCC! The Zags are expected to be the overwhelming favorite to reign supreme again in the conference. With possibly the best frontcourt in America, led by preseason All-American Kyle Wiltjer, possible NBA lottery pick Domantas Sabonis, and center Prezemek Karnowski, the Zags are my clear cut favorite to win the WCC.
- Brigham Young– Led by their dynamic senior point guard, Kyle Collinsworth, BYU looks to avenge the loss in the WCC Championship game to the Zags last year. BYU, gave Gonzaga its lone loss in conference play last year and is the only real threat to steal the top spot from the Zags. With guys like freshman and 4 star recruit (according to ESPN recruiting) Nick Emery, Collinsworth, who tied an NCAA record with 6 triple doubles last season and fellow senior guard Chase Fischer, BYU looks like a lock for second in the league.
- Pepperdine– This pick may come as a surprise to many, as the teams finishing behind the Zags and BYU are a little unclear at the moment. However, Pepperdine may be that team. The Waves beat BYU twice last season, and they gave Gonzaga all they could handle as all both regular season games versus the Zags last year were decided by single digits. As a team that had double digit wins in the WCC last season with 10, it seems like they could be a lock for third and possibly even second in the WCC. With 5 returning starters, and a possible WCC Player of the Year candidate in Forward Stacy Davis, the Waves are my sleeper pick in the conference this year.
- Portland Pilots– Head Coach Eric Reveno has done a great job the last two years helping Portland rise in the conference standings. He helped lead Portland to an above .500 record last season at 17-16, the first winning season for the Pilots in years. With promising guards, Bryce Pressley (14.2 ppg) and Alec Wintering (12.4 ppg), the Pilots will look for a top four finish in the league this season.
- Santa Clara Broncos– Led by their standout junior guard Jared Brownridge who had a team leading 15.9 ppg last season, the Broncos are a wild card team in the conference this year. They are a young team with a lot of inexperience and the loss of senior guard, Brandon Clark (15.8 ppg last season) will hurt. The Broncos will most likely have many ups and downs this season. A standing of 5th seems very possible for Santa Clara.
- San Francisco Dons– The Dons will likely be on the bottom part of the WCC standings this year. They lose top scorers from last season in forwards, Matt Tollefson (14 ppg) and Kruize Pinkins (13.9 ppg). Sophomore guard Devin Watson will have to lead a group of youngsters to a top 6 finish, but this looks like a rebuilding year for this team.
- St. Mary’s Gaels– This is my bold prediction inside of the WCC this year. A 7th place finish for the rival and the one team that has constantly given the Zags a run for their money year in and year out in the WCC, the Gaels of St. Mary’s. The Gaels, have either been the runner up or the winner of the WCC the past few years next to the Zags. Losing senior center and all conference first team player, Brad Waldow, who had a team leading (19.3 ppg) will hurt St. Mary’s in more ways than one. The Gaels will be losing him and all 4 of their starters and with the loss of scholarships due to recruiting violations the Gaels don’t have much talent to work with. The Gaels went 13-5 in conference play last year, and that record could be flipped in the other direction this year. Hopefully the incoming transfer from Boston College, Joe Rahon will help St. Mary’s rebuild what has become a brand new roster.
- Pacific Tigers– League newcomer, the Pacific Tigers hasn’t done much in their first two years in the WCC. They have finished no better than 7th in each year. Hopefully, point guard T.J Wallace (13 ppg) will help keep the Tigers from being one of the bottom feeders in the WCC this season.
- San Diego Toreros– The Toreros have made some strides in the WCC the last few years. That was largely in part to great guard play from seniors Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson. Dee, who averaged 17 ppg last season, will be sorely missed as the team’s leader and arguably their all -around best player. Anderson, meanwhile only averaged 7.7 ppg, but he was the floor general for a team that is missing one this season. I’m predicting it will be a very long season for the Toreros. A bottom two finish is probably where you will see USD in March.
- Loyola Marymount Lions– The Lions have never really been good in the WCC and I don’t expect that to change this season. With senior guard Evan Payne (18 ppg) now gone from the program, I have no idea where the scoring will come from with this team. The Lions are expected to finish last in the WCC and I see no reason to disagree with that statement. It will be very difficult to improve upon a 4-14 conference record from last season for the Lions.
West Coast All- Conference Team
G- Kyle Collinsworth- BYU
This man is a magician with the ball in his hands, he is the heart and soul of the BYU team. He should easily be the conference pick for the guard position he gets triple doubles like every other game. Collinsworth, isn’t just one of the best guards in this conference, but in the country as well.
F- Kyle Wiltjer- Gonzaga
Wiltjer, who is a Preseason All American, has come over from Kentucky and instantly provided offense for the Zags. Wiltjer can beat you in so many different ways, whether it’s from the 3 point line or inside the point. He is bound for a big year on a team with a fantastic offense.
F- Domantas Sabonis- Gonzaga
Sabonis was the 6th man for the Zags last season. He could very well stay in that role, but expect Sabonis to see plenty of minutes as a starter this year alongside Wiltjer and Karnowski. A ferocious rebounder and as someone who has a knack for making big time plays, Sabonis is an NBA type talent. Sabonis is incredibly skilled and a terrific passer. He’s ready to take that second year leap to be one of the best forwards in the NCAA’s.
F- Stacy Davis- Pepperdine
Davis is one of the few players in the conference that could cause trouble for the Gonzaga bigs. He is long, athletic, and is very skilled for someone his size. I could see Davis putting up 20-10 numbers this season in the WCC. The ceiling is that high for this kid.
C-Prezemek Karnowski- Gonzaga
The 7-1 mammoth from Poland looks to assert his dominance this season in the WCC. Karnowski, who is a senior, has made major strides since his freshmen year. Karnowski, almost averaged a double – double last year, and he is ready to show the country that he is one of the best centers around. With soft hands, and great touch for a big man, I expect the big man from Poland to play a major role for the Zags in his final season. Karnowski is the X- factor for a Zags team with Final Four aspirations.
Player of the Year
F- Kyle Wiltjer- Gonzaga
Wiltjer is going to be the player of the year in the WCC. There isn’t too much more to say about Wiltjer. The kid is a matchup nightmare any time he steps on the floor. He is surrounded by terrific talent and he isn’t just the best player in this conference, but one of the best in the nation. We should enjoy watching him every time that he puts the Gonzaga uniform on.
Defensive Player of the Year
C- Prezemek Karnowski- Gonzaga
I could be wrong but I believe Karnowksi will show what he is really made of on defense this year. The 7 footer is bound to block everything that comes his way inside the paint in WCC play. Not many teams will challenge Gonzaga in the paint when they see Karnowksi overshadowing that area of the floor. When you’re that big, blocking shots and making your defensive presence felt is easy.
Coach of the Year
Marty Wilson, Pepperdine
Most people probably believe that this honor will be a no brainer and that it will go to Mark Few from Gonzaga but I don’t believe this will be the case. With all the talent Pepperdine has I think this is the year they could finish in the top 2 in the conference.With that, I believe Marty Wilson will take this honor, because he did a phenomenal job with this group last year. I think he has a chance to go one step higher this season and if so Pepperdine could be due for big things.
There you have it! Those are my predictions for the West Coast Conference this season. It should be a great year in the WCC once again, but I think my predictions should be close to what actually happens. Expect the Zags to be number one again but it should be an entertaining season from start to finish! I am so excited for it to all get started on Friday!
Comments and questions are always encouraged. Thanks again and enjoy the college basketball season!
Buffalo State 16’