The WCC---College football is still king, when it comes to college sports, with basketball a very close second. Of course that will change dramatically in the next few years as less young athletes decide to play football because of the seriousness of concussion issues and turn to other sports like basketball. In the West Coast Conference, basketball is always king because most of the schools do not play football. And the basketball every year is terrific and so much fun to watch and follow.
Of course most of the schools are buoyed by not having football, but the league is also prominent because of major TV deals with several networks and having the heavily followed nationally, Gonzaga Bulldogs, win the league almost every year. One thing that is missing in the WCC is that there really are no rivalries because of the Gonzaga dominance and in order for rivalries to be true, there must be equal winning on both sides.
This year will be the same as every year in the WCC. The games will be exciting, it will be tough for teams to win on the road and the basketball will be as competitive as any league in the entire country. Here is an early look at the WCC and how the league season will unfold, as the WCC adds Pacific of Stockton, California to the mix to give the league 10 teams.
10. Pepperdine---With perhaps the most beautiful college campus in the United States, it is always a wonder why Pepperdine does not do better in basketball. Marty Wilson is a very capable coach for Pepperdine, but in a tough league, it is hard for the Waves to jump over people.
9. Loyola---Could be a long year for coach Max Good and his LIons. The talent is just not there to be higher in the league. At 72, Good still has the energy and passion for coaching of any 30 year old, but just does not have the players to finish higher in the WCC.
8. San Francisco---Rex Walters is fiery, aggressive and a solid basketball coach, but his teams at San Francisco since he took over as coach have been average. With its iconic basketball history, someday it would be great to see the Dons back on top, but that is a long ways off.
7. Pacific---It will be fun for the Tigers to be in the WCC. After having Bob Thomason as their coach for 25 years, in which he led Pacific to eight appearances in the NCAA tournament, Ron Verlin takes over for the retired Thomason. Verlin's twin brother Don is the head coach of the Idaho Vandals, which makes for an interesting story, but it still will be a tough year for the Tigers as they move into alway tough WCC.
6. Santa Clara---Marc Trasolini and Kevin Foster, two great players from the Broncos great team of last year have graduated, leaving Kerry Keating big holes to fill. One thing about the Broncos, they will never be out coached as Keating is one of the best in the country and never gets the credit he deserves at Santa Clara.
5. Portland---Eric Reveno has a much more talented group this year, than last year, when his team won only 11 games. It is time for the Pilots to jump to the upper division in the WCC and this should be the year. It is really critical that Ryan Nicholas have a big time senior season, as he is more than capable of doing.
4. St. Mary's---Hardly ever do you hear about how great of a coach Randy Bennett really is at St. Mary's. Of course this year, it will be interesting to see how the Gaels fare and if there confidence is shaken by the harsh NCCA sanctions, which were just upheld by the NCAA this week. Bennett will be suspended for five games this year and also is not allowed to recruit off campus.
3. San Diego---It is about time Billy Grier had a good team for the Toreros, this really should be the year. San Diego has one of the deepest rosters in the league and has the talent to be top three. The pressure is on Grier to have a good club, it certainly appears on paper he will this season.
2. Gonzaga---There really is nothing much you can say about the Bulldogs that has not been said. They have dominated the WCC for years and also sellout every building. To be picked second might be odd, but this year the talent is down slightly and it will be a rare year where they finish second in the regular season.
1. BYU---The Cougars have a mix of veterans and newcomers, but they are all really good players. I also think this team will play with passion all year long in support of the their coach who David Rose, who has battled cancer the last few year and still continues to be one of the best coaches in all of basketball. As Gonzaga has won 12 out of the last 13 regular season WCC championships, come March it will be 12 out of the last 14.
Local Fastbreaks----Congrats to Stephen Madison, who completed his high school basketball career at Portland's Jefferson high school and starts his senior season this year for the Idaho Vandals. In a vote of both the coaches and media, Madison was selected to the preseason all league first team. Last year, Madison was the Vandals second leading scorer and started 26 of the team's 30 games. His father Michael is the director of development at Concordia University in Portland.
Bobby Medina, the extremely popular strength and conditioning coach for the Portland Trail Blazers for the past 15 years, but is not back this season, has landed the same job with the BYU Cougars and it has lots of people excited in Provo, including basketball coach David Rose who says Medina will be a great addition to the athletic staff.
It is almost time, yes time really does fly. Portland State men's basketball and a member of the Big Sky will open their home season on November 1st with an 8:15 p.m game against Northwest Christian of the strong NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference. The game will also mark the coaching debut in Portland of former Oregon Duck great Luke Jackson, who has taken over as the head coach for Northwest Christian. Prior to the men's game, at 6:00, the Portland State women will play Simon Fraser.
Across town, the improved Portland Pilots will open their season on October 26th with a 3:30 game against NAIA powerhouse Concordia (Irvine), who seem to every year they play the Pilots create a very competitive game and is a team well worth watching. And always remember, the parking for University of Portland basketball is free, a rarity in sports these days and U of Portland has one of the best arenas in the country to watch basketball.
It will be sad not to see Randy Bennett on the sidelines when the St. Mary's Gaels come to Portland on January 4th to battle the Pilots. As upheld yesterday by the NCAA, part of the sanctions against the St. Mary's basketball program include Bennett serving a five game suspension, which starts on December 30th and includes the U of Portland game.
Greg Crawford is the college basketball and golf insider for CSNNW.com and also every Sunday writes Craw's Sports Business Weekend.