NCAA College Basketball 2014-2015 Early Projections: West Coast Conference

Ethan Miller

The WCC continues to climb the national ladder thanks to marquee programs at the top and increasing competitiveness below. How will that balancing act play out this season?

If you haven't seen the movie Big, the main character, Josh Baskin, ends up being transformed into an adult version of himself (played by Tom Hanks) by a fortune telling machine called Zoltar. And all he wanted to was to be tall enough to go on a ride at the carnival. Talk about not getting what you paid for. We don't accept quarters here, but we will look into the hazy future and hope to predict what will be coming in the 2014-15 season for our leagues. Sorry, no refunds.

It was a banner year for achievement and parity in the WCC in 2013-14 with two teams in the NCAA Tournament, two in the NIT and two in the CIT. But, if you're reading Mid-Major Madness, you probably knew that. Unfortunately, since Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU weren't all over the top-25, most people didn't notice.

Gonzaga looks ready to take a step up from a 27 win so-called down year while BYU shouldn't take a step back. As for the rest, could another team fight for an at-large berth to the big dance? Certainly, but it probably won't be Saint Mary's. That means the parity isn't going away.

Unfortunately, Jamie Zaninovich is. Commissioner since 2008, Zaninovich led the conference to new heights. Now he's heading over to the Pac-12 for an assistant commissioner gig. His replacement has yet to be named.

Very Early All-Conference Team:

Kevin Pangos, Sr., G, Gonzaga
Tyler Haws, Sr., G, BYU
Jared Brownridge, So., G, Santa Clara
Brad Waldow, Sr., F, Saint Mary's
Przemek Karnowski, Jr., C, Gonzaga

POY: Tyler Haws, BYU
DPOY: Gary Bell Jr., Sr, G, Gonzaga
COY: Eric Reveno, Portland

The WCC's official all-conference team has ten spots, my all-conference team follows the more traditional five spot system. It also doesn't allow for five guards from the guard-heavy conference (sorry Gary Bell and Johnny Dee) or for two centers (sorry Thomas van der Mars). Now that that's out of the way, this five man team is pretty solid.

Tyler Haws, the reigning WCC Player of the Year, should be on innumerable preseason watch lists. Haws, along with Kevin Pangos and Brad Waldow, were three of the six non-seniors on last year's all-conference team. Przemek Karnowski and Jared Brownridge were both honorable mentions and Brownridge was the Newcomer of the Year.

Impact Transfers:

Kyle Wiltjer, F, Jr., Gonzaga (from Kentucky) - Adds much needed depth to the Zags' frontcourt. A five star recruit, McDonald's All-American and national champion as a freshman. No longer a freshman, no longer at Kentucky.
Jamal Aytes, F, So., BYU (from UNLV) -
Recruited heavily by the Cougars last year before committing to UNLV. Will help make up for the departure of Eric Mika for his two year LDS mission. Not eligible until second semester.
Chase Fischer, SG, Jr., BYU (from Wake Forest) -
Caught in a log-jam in the BYU backcourt but should provide a boost off the bench.
Joe Coleman, SG, Jr., Saint Mary's (from Minnesota) - Former starter for the Gophers, will help immediately in a depleted Gaels' backcourt.
Aaron Bright, PG, Sr., Saint Mary's (from Stanford) - Graduate transfer from Stanford and 2012 NIT MVP but coming off season ending shoulder surgery. Should be starting point guard.

Early Standings Prediction:

1. Gonzaga - What a surprise, the Zags are expected to be atop the WCC. 7' 1" junior Przemek Karnowski is set up for a breakout season, as the frontcourt is finally his to command. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. get one last chance to be the best backcourt in the country. Two highly touted freshmen, Domantas Sabonis and Josh Perkins should contribute immediately off the bench.

2. BYU - The Cougars' title hopes took a major hit over the past couple of months. They'll be without point guard Matt Carlino, who is transferring, and have to rehab combo guard Kyle Collinsworth's torn ACL this offseason. Sophomore big man Eric Mika is heading on his LDS mission. However, they've still got Tyler Haws, and that means a lot. Incoming transfers join a cast of reserves who spent last season stepping up when needed.

3. Portland - Yes, the Pilots. The depth around Thomas van der Mars should keep their frontcourt among the league's best despite the loss of Ryan Nicholas. To-be sophomore Alec Wintering and leading scorer Kevin Bailey, both finished the season on the bench with injury, return to a sharpshooting backcourt. A confident team last season, that took down Gonzaga and BYU, becomes a confident and veteran laden team next year.

4. San Francisco - Rex Walters loses his best player, forward Cole Dickerson, but returns pretty much everything else from last season's team that earned an at-large bid to the NIT. Walters has a track record of overcoming major or numerous losses so this season shouldn't be too difficult.

5. Saint Mary's - It's a rebuilding year in Moraga, with nearly the entire backcourt being replaced. It's quite possible the starting guards next season could both be incoming transfers, if they outplay second year transfer Kerry Carter. Brad Waldow's back for his senior season, and that's a big deal, but he's the only lock for all-conference team. The Gaels have a high ceiling if everything comes together. If not, they're in for another unusually low finish.

6. Pepperdine - Marty Wilson's Waves showed flashes of brilliance last season thanks in large part to graduate transfer Brendan Lane. He's gone, and the frontcourt will once again be all about 6' 6" junior Stacy Davis. He'll be joined by incoming freshman center Nate Gehring, who adds size to an otherwise small lineup.

7. Santa Clara - Led by WCC Newcomer of the Year Jared Brownridge, last year's freshman class will have the Broncos on the upswing. Unfortunately, the loss of senior point guard Evan Roquemore and senior forward Jerry Brown will hamper the team's ability to make a major jump in the standings. Kerry Keating's team will be a major threat in a year or two.

8. San Diego - Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee have been running the Toreros' backcourt for the past three seasons. They make one of the best guard duos in the country. Unfortunately, that's the only thing going for Bill Grier's squad. Because they're so good, and always getting one year of extra experience, most preseason rankings have the Toreros well above where they end up finishing.

9. Loyola Marymount - Head coach Max Good and all-time great Anthony Ireland are both gone, along with a couple of reserve transfers. New head man Mike Dunlap should get the program back on its feet (if he can avoid the injury bug that cursed Good's career) but he can't do it overnight. Sophomore Evan Payne should have an all-conference season.

10. Pacific - Second year head coach Ron Verlin has to replace seven seniors and transfer. That's a lot of bodies, but when those seven seniors made up the vast majority of the team's stats, it becomes a daunting task. T.J. Wallace and Aaron Short will become the featured players for Pacific.

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