The excitement of the new year is always trumped for Zag fans with the beginning of conference play. A time where our beloved team is forced, against their will, to play fourteen Weak Competition Conference games from early January to March. It is a bittersweet time for many Zag fans because the winning streak we put together is accompanied by a change in our style of play. They go from playing to win in non-conference, to playing not to lose in the WCC. In last years' case, we also had a player or two trying to up their PPG every game, which didn't help. We are one of few teams that have the most important part of their schedule at the beginning and the tune-up games at the end. I know that conference games aren't technically tune-ups but we don't lose to anyone but SMC unless we choose to. It's very interesting to look at the complexion of our schedule, because we have had a tough time waking up for the tourney, where we play teams actually worthy of stepping on the court with us.
Of course, the athletic conference we play in is actually called the West Coast Conference (for those who were going to correct me), and for me to call it what I did was way over the line...
...or was it?
WCC Teams, in order that I think they will finish
1. Gonzaga, barring any team crushing occurrences. They will win the conference, but a few devastating injuries might cause us to lose 2 or 3 while we get the rotation re-set.
2. SMC- They have a couple players that are very familiar with us as well as a bit of fresh talent in the form of Dellavedova. He is their second leading scorer behind Samhan with 13.4 PPG, and Samhan is averaging a greasy 20.8 PPG. Samhan is averaging a double-double, McConnell is getting over 6 APG, and Dellavedova is getting some assists as well. The bottom line is SMC was able to compete with us because of one and only one guy: Patty Mills. He was the best thing they have had, and similar to Davidson, when their entire program goes to the NBA they won't be so competitive. I mean Samhan has looked decent in the past, but he had Mills and Simpson. They play their best and hardest game against us every year, so with the officials' help, like they got in '07, they could get lucky and take us. Maybe. No good wins or bad losses
3. Portland- Before you freak out about them not being at #1 as a result of their dominating 9-5 record last year in the juggernaut WCC, take a look at their non conference record this year. It's 9-5. No good wins unless you count Minnesota, and losses to Idaho, Portland State (gulp!), and Nevada. They also lost to UW but I'll give them that one. So much for returning all 12 players and kicking us off the throne. We will beat them twice.
No one cares about any of the other teams, so I won't mention them.
14-0, and hopefully we aren't still hibernating when we go to Memphis.