Coaches and players, men and women, from all ten WCC member institutions convened in Los Angeles today for the WCC's third annual Tip-Off Event. Along with the headline grabbing preseason poll and all-conference team, the state and future of the WCC were discussed in depth by conference administration.
Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich opened the event by discussing the state of the conference. His speech centered on the three main pillars of the conference's vision, competitiveness, exposure and leadership.
The main focus of his speech was the exposure the conference will be getting this season. At least 90 percent of WCC men's games will be televised nationally, regionally or online this season. 47 men's games will be carried on regional TV networks (Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Comcast Bay Area and Root Sports Northwest and Rocky Mountain). In addition, WCC teams will make over 40 appearances on ESPN networks. That number is somewhat deceiving because a game between two WCC teams counts as two appearances. Five men's WCC Tournament games will be carried on either ESPN2 or ESPN.
The most radical departure from last season, in terms of exposure, is TheW.tv, the WCC's new web channel. 70 men's and women's basketball games will be broadcast, live, on TheW.tv. That number includes the games broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Commissioner Zaninovich explained it simply, "parents, recruits and fans that are distributed beyond our region, they'll be able to see those games on a free platform."
After exposure, leadership (mostly in academics) was the second focus of his speech. Zaninovich said, "I think we have a unique opportunity, thanks to our competitive relevance... and the fundamental value system of our schools, to take a leadership position within college athletics. I think there are very few conferences that mold the academic and, more specifically, educational experience of their student-athletes with as high a level of athletics as we support." Zaninovich went on to explain how the WCC has maintained success in athletics and athletics, specifically in NCAA Graduation Success Rates. In men's basketball, the WCC has been in the top-three nationally in the GSR three of the last four years. Last season, Kelly Olynyk, Matthew Dellavedova and Marc Trasolini were academic all-Americans. Zaninovich pointed out that "(the WCC) was one of only two conferences to have three academic all-Americans." When you consider that both Olynyk and Dellavedova are on NBA rosters this season, saying the WCC is committed to athletic and academic success is no joke.
Since I figure most people came here to read about the preseason poll and all-conference team, I had to make you read through the academic success stuff first.
Preseason Coaches Poll:
- Gonzaga Bulldogs: eight first place votes, 80 total points.
- BYU Cougars: one first place vote, 72 points.
- Saint Mary's Gaels: one first place vote, 66 points.
- San Francisco Dons: 51 points.
- San Diego Toreros: 50 points.
- Loyola Marymount Lions: 44 points.
- Pacific Tigers: 28 points.
- Santa Clara Broncos: 25 points.
- Portland Pilots: 24 points.
- Pepperdine Waves: 10 points.
Preseason All-WCC Team:
- Gary Bell, Jr., Gonzaga, Junior, Guard
- Stacy Davis, Pepperdine, Sophomore, Forward
- Johnny Dee, San Diego, Junior, Guard
- Cole Dickerson, San Francisco, Senior, Forward
- Cody Doolin, San Francisco, Senior, Guard
- Tyler Haws, BYU, Junior, Guard
- Stephen Holt, Saint Mary's, Guard
- Anthony Ireland, LMU, Senior, Guard
- Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga, Junior, Guard
- Brad Waldow, Saint Mary's, Junior, Forward
The University of the Pacific returns:
The Tigers have officially been a member of the WCC since July 1st, but today was their first day back in the conference's top sport. The Tigers were a founding member of the WCC but left for the Big West in 1971. Head coach Ron Verlin told me that, thanks to longtime coach Bob Thomason (who was retired after last season), the Tigers never forgot about their WCC past. Thomason played for Pacific while still in the WCC and would occasionally talk about the Bay Area rivalries.
On the court, coach Verlin is concerned about the style-of-play differences between the Big West and WCC. "When you think about Big West basketball," Verlin said, "it's more quick, more athletic, smaller perimeter players." Compared to the WCC which has, "more double post type offense instead of the four out one in type motion." Verlin also said the WCC is, "maybe not as athletic but more a skill conference."
While he thinks the Tigers will be competitive from the get go, getting to the top will be a challenge. "We can compete with the team we have right now, with seven seniors. I do, being realistic, think it will take a couple years to get to the top. We have to change our recruiting a little bit. We need to get bigger guards and bigger front line guys." Once that happens, though, expect to see Pacific challenge the WCC's big three. The Tigers have the fourth highest win percentage, since 2000-01, among WCC teams.
How does Santa Clara replace three 1,000 point scorers?
Senior point guard Evan Roquemore (a 1,000 point scorer in his own right) and fourth year juniors Yannick Atanga and Julian Clarke are the obvious answers. However, head coach Kerry Keating is high on his large incoming freshman class.
"As has been the case with the two large freshman classes that we've had, there is a unique bond that happens when they have an opportunity to all play. Which is starting to happen a little bit now... sometimes we're putting them all together and obviously we're trying to create continuity and chemistry," Keating said, "they're very talented and we need them to play, they're half of our team."
Will Kyle Collinsworth return to form, after his LDS Mission, as quickly as Tyler Haws?
BYU head coach Dave Rose said, "I've been at BYU for... this is the start of my 19th season and I've never seen anybody do what Tyler did. I think it's a bit unrealistic to think the next guy is going to be that good. But, Kyle is going to be a real advantage to our team. What he does from the guard position, at 6-7, will be special in this league." Yes, he's 6-7, a guard, and coach Rose will play him "with the ball in his hands."
Another guy to keep an eye on from BYU? Freshman Frank Bartley.
Can Matthew Dellavedova be replaced at Saint Mary's?
Cullen Neal looked to be the replacement, but then he was granted a release to play for his dad, Craig, when he became head coach at New Mexico. Now, head coach Randy Bennett says senior Stephen Holt will handle point guard duties. Holt has been one of the best off-ball guards out west since his freshman season, but he doesn't have the typical point guard skill set.
While trying to answer the Dellavedova question, Bennett answered an even more important question. A question that I hadn't even thought of. Does Randy Bennett love mid-majors? At the end of the interview, Bennett had forgotten who I was with. When I told him "Mid-Major Madness" he said,"Oh, I love it, I love mid-majors!"