While most of the country will be looking at Saint Mary's and BYU to challenge Gonzaga this season in the West Coast Conference, folks that are familiar with the WCC know that there is a fourth team in the mix for the crown. The Santa Clara Broncos, led by coach Kerry Keating, are finally at full strength and are chomping at the bit. On the young season, Santa Clara is 12-3. Like we saw with Pepperdine, however, Santa Clara's win column doesn't exactly feature top tier programs. Their best win came early in the season against Saint Louis but since that game in mid-November, they have not necessarily had any big wins. Their three losses came against Utah State, UC Santa Barbara (both in OT), and Duke. If you are asking yourself where all the hype is coming for Santa Clara, look no further than the Duke game.
Santa Clara gave Duke a major test in Durham on the 29th of December and it raised eyebrows across the nation. Paced by star guard Kevin Foster's incredible 29 point outburst, the Broncos lost to the Blue Devils by just 13 points and they actually led in the second half. While there were some 'Duke-ish' calls in the second half that made it particularly tough for Santa Clara to get the win, they were unable to make enough plays to get the job done and secure the upset. With that said, it was a big time performance for Santa Clara. They showed the country and this conference that with their dynamic duo intact, they can be a major force.
The dynamic duo I reference is Foster and big man Marc Trasolini. Trasolini, who missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, has always been a thorn in Gonzaga's side. Finally, as a senior, you better believe that he will want to go out with at least one win over the Zags. So far this year, Trasolini is averaging 16 points and 8 boards in 30 minutes per game. He's a versatile force for Kerry Keating that can seemingly do it all. Roaming the perimeter is the ever dangerous Kevin Foster. The senior guard is averaging 19 points per game so far this season. Making this duo a three-headed monster is Evan Roquemore. The junior guard leads the team in minutes played per game with 32 and is averaging 14 points and 6 assists per contest.
There is a definite tension among Gonzaga fans about this game. While Gonzaga has outstanding depth, it is going to be incredibly tough to shut down an emotionally charged Santa Clara team led by an incredible senior duo. The Broncos will put up a very tough test and will likely challenge the Zags well into the second half. The key, just as we saw in nonconference, will be if the Zags can keep the hot shooting perimeter players in check. If Roquemore and, more importantly, Foster get hot, Santa Clara could really run out a lead on Gonzaga. If Gary Bell, Mike Hart, and the rest of the Bulldogs backcourt can shadow Foster, I don't think the Broncos will be able to find enough scoring in other places to pull the upset.