For the better part of recent memory, the WCC has been the stomping grounds of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. There have been a few times that someone else has threatened, namely Saint Mary's, but more often than not, it is Gonzaga at the top of the list.
In the near future, that might not be the case, however, and that near future might be as early as next season.
Now don't get me wrong, Gonzaga should be picked to win the WCC just based off of past history alone. Until Gonzaga drops the ball, the conference title always rolls through Spokane. But like Saint Mary's and BYU showed last season, Spokane isn't the iron fortress that it necessarily used to be.
The thing is, the Saint Mary's Gaels are going to be really good next year. In fact, you can make an argument that they should start off the preseason ranked higher than Gonzaga. I won't make that argument, because #gaelstears, but there is no way around it--Saint Mary's will be a massive challenge last year.
For starters, you take the best shooting team in the nation and you lose a grand total of zero players. You read that right. Saint Mary's didn't have a single senior on its team last season. Joe Rahon will be a senior this year. Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson will be juniors. One of the best shooting teams in the nation will collectively be one year older and one year wiser.
And you have to imagine that Randy Bennett is going to try and schedule a bit more aggressively next season, after essentially missing out on the NCAA Tournament because Saint Mary's only had to ride a bike to play its road games in the non-conference slate.
Then there is BYU. The Cougars, once again, are going to be a crazed wildcard. BYU is losing huge chunks of production in Chase Fischer and Kyle Collinsworth. But Nick Emery, Kyle Davis and Zac Seljaas are all still there. But then, they add old Eric Mika, back from his mission. Then there is T.J. Haws, Tyler Haws' somehow more successful in high school younger brother.
BYU shouldn't be better than Gonzaga, but they will be a big potential scare, no matter what.
On top of all of this, Mark Few's comments about the WCC seemed to finally rankle some of our fellow schools' feathers. Portland tapped ex-NBA star Terry Porter as their new coach. Santa Clara chose ex-Arizona State coach Herb Sendek. San Francisco plucked Kyle Smith from Columbia after he led the Lions to their best seasons in school history.
That means are years of just waltzing through the WCC are hopefully over. At least, for the time being, with the teams BYU and Saint Mary's have assembled, it will take a lot more effort and talent from the Zags to go undefeated in conference play. And honestly, running the table is great, but I'd rather see some good losses in there if that means the Zags are finally playing good teams as well.