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West Coast Conference is stronger than it looks

Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara and BYU add depth to a conference traditionally dominated by Gonzaga

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at St. Mary’s
Saint Mary’s faithful have their eyes set on a deep run in March.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Gonzaga is miles ahead of the other teams in its conference (and most other teams in the nation). However, the West Coast has other teams that have embellished their resumes in preparation for March.

As the regular season wraps up, the WCC could have three or even four NCAA Tournament bids. Here is how the top teams are looking.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Zags just clinched their 10th straight WCC regular season title. The unonimus No. 1 team in the nation is not sneaking up on anybody. Gonzaga has the top scoring offense in the country with five players scoring in double digits.

Junior forward Drew Timme, a terrific player in the paint, leads the scoring with an average of 18.0 points per game while shooting at 59.6% from the field. Chet Holmgren, the versatile seven-foot freshman forward, is shooting at 62.0% (best in the WCC) and is averaging 14.4 points per game. He also leads conference in rebounds (9.6 per game), blocks (87 total this season).

While Andrew Nembhard contribute 10.9 point per game, he is also invaluable when it comes to facilitating with 5.7 assists per game (top 20 in the nation).

There are many other keys to Gonzaga’s success, but let’s move on to other teams that also strengthen the conference…

Saint Mary’s Gaels

The Gaels are ranked once again this week at No. 23 in the AP Poll. Per CBS Sports bracket expert Jerry Palm, the Gales could be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This is a top-10 defensive team that is only allowing opponents 60 points per game. Senior guard Logan Johnson averages 2.14 steals per game, which is 25th best in the nation.

Saint Mary’s secured the No. 2 seed in the WCC after a 60-46 win over San Diego last week.

San Francisco Dons

The Dons are receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches poll. They are also top 30 in NET and KenPom along with Gonzaga and SMC.

San Francisco counts with some strong veterans. Graduate guard Jamaree Bouyea is one of the top scorers in the WCC at 17.2 points per game. Fellow grad student Yauhen Massalski is second in the league in rebounds (9.5 rpg) and field goal percentage (61.3%), just behind Gonzaga’s Holmgren in both categories.

This has been a strong season for the Dons, who started 10-0 and look to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.

Santa Clara Broncos

The Broncos are just above BYU in the conference standings. Their offense is in the top three in the WCC, but their defense is in the bottom three. Santa Clara can sneak up on a lot of good teams, as shown by its victory over then-No. 22 Saint Mary’s 77-72 on Feb. 8.

Junior guard Jalen Williams is right behind Gonzaga’s Timme in WCC scoring with an average of 17.7 points per game. Senior forward Keshawn Justice is top five in rebounds in the conference with 7.3 per game.

BYU Cougars

Earlier this season the Cougars looked like they had a guaranteed NCAA Tournament spot. However, going 2-5 since Jan 27 has not helped their chances.

BYU is No. 55 in NET rankings and is currently on the bubble. The Cougars are looking to boost their resume by adding another Quad 1 game next week.

There is no doubt Alex Barcello is one of the most talented players in the conference. The 6’2” senior guard is one of the top scorers in the WCC with an average of 17.5 points per game. He is also in the top three nationally for 3-point percentage (46.1%).

Other signs the conference is getting stronger…

Portland deserves a shoutout for their huge improvement this season. The Pilots have not been a strong team in a while. They went 6-15 overall last season, but they are currently 16-12 in Shantay Legans’ first season as the head coach.