just a quick breakdown of off season moves around the WCC, of note, there’s an obvious #1 and they’re well covered here so this will focus on the other 9. Main point is to give a little background as to what to expect next year, in what may be a very different backdrop for continued GU dominance. (If the season happens, very much hoping it does)
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs - nuff said, national title contenders possibly preseason #1 nationally...
2. BYU Cougars
Though the Cougars are set to lose a vast amount of talent from what was their best Post-Jimmer squad; they will not fall off the map and may be right in the ball park of Top 25 once again. The addition of Haarns was huge, but Lohner (4-star/high-3 Star) is every bit the type of contributor the Cougars need to continue their inspired run in Mark Popes first season behind the helm. Other additions like Uber athletic Gideon George, along with two incoming talented transfer bigs from UVU along with Barcello returning should point to a second place finish, with a good OOC a tournament bid, and more good press for the WCC. This may be a good team, but it’s also of note that this may be the weakest team in the Pope era. Which, let’s be honest, Marriott is the second best venue in the W and a strong BYU is great for a stronger Gonzaga. I do not feel their drop off will be as bad as a team like St Mary’s.
3. LMU Lions
Maybe a bit of a shocker here. Pepperdine could easily get this nod, but these are end of 2020-21 predictions, and I feel Romarisms will cost Pepp a close game that puts the Lions ahead. Eli Scott has returned, Markusson returning. Quintana and Douglass coming off injuries. Kody Pugh, Quentin Jackson as good role player option Grad Transfers coming from Stanford and Temple respectfully. Alipiev and Leaupepe proved to be good back up or role players. Johnson’s hiring has seemed to reinvigorate the long troubled program. Mayoum Mayoum might not see the court for them this year, and Johnson will have to rebuild after what may be a Pope at BYU like single season jolt... but Mayoum, if it weren’t for Suggs, could possibly be the most athletic recruit in the entirety of the WCCs offseason. Insane hops. He will more than likely join a 3-man 2021 class that is already ranked in 247’s Top 10. Scheduling is key for any WCC team not in the Top 2 to have any chance at an at-large (see SMC this past year in projections). If the injured pieces can return to form by December and the new additions can add necessary pieces to a well rounded core, the Lions should have a shot at the NIT at the least.
4. Pepperdine Waves
A lot of this will depend if CdotRoss withdraws from the draft and returns to school. Kessler Edwards will be back, along with everyone of note returning. Chukwuka, grad transfer from Pitt and Kendall Munson (3 star PF incoming FR) will give the Waves more depth, size, and athleticism on the front line. It’s well known they can score the ball with the best, but their defensive weaknesses are absolutely glaring. Given certain teams beneath them in these predictions and above having better defensive players or game plans, mixed with "Romarisms", I expect a team that in theory could finish second in the league will to slip to 4th. Once again, this is all about scheduling. Last year they went toe to toe with some solid teams, but never got a big win. In between those moments they played Abilene Christian, and various low level Division I schools. 20 wins and the mid level media projection of the teams talents means possibly a shot at the NIT; At Large potential but again, there’s big questions to their ability to secure wins if they don’t get the last shot. Hopefully, they have been on the horn to get some quality win opportunities.
5. San Francisco Dons
Losing Charles Minlend was a big loss, that cannot be underplayed. However the Dons have a few nice new pieces for Todd Golden to tool around with. But first and foremost, Bouyea and Shabazz are back and this should make for some fun drama (or frustrating depending on what side of the viewpoint you’re on while watching GU v USF games). Damari Milstead is a very nice potential piece for the Dons and Goldens penchant for pressing and utilization of versatility in game plan. Losing Jimbo Lull and Ratihno are also obstacles to overcome; however Josh Kunen has potential to grow and becoming a very good player with his skill set mixed with length and athleticism, I’d look for him to make a good pairing inside with either Jurkatamm or former Illinois big man Samba Kane. Ryuny seems poised to step up and take a role of "3 and D" that Ratihno has left open. Julian Rishwain, a Boston College transfer, may fill this void as well if he is seeking a waiver (though I’d put that as doubtful and he will be sit one play three). Anthony Roy could be a Freshman to watch, long and skilled, solid athleticism. This is where I will state i feel the line of at large potential ends in the WCC, as USF has shown signs of improving their scheduling each year, raising their profile. If they continue, at the very least they can steal a few nice wins for the conference and then become a feeder for Gonzaga, BYU and the possibility of a 3rd at large team (if not becoming one themselves).
6. Santa Clara Broncos
Losing Trey Wertz means no true point guard on the roster and Tahj Eady could’ve at least handled the duties but he is gone as well, unless Hudgins is as D-I ready as only a few scouts are whispering. However: DJ Mitchell, Caruso, Jalen Williams, Justice, Bediako, and Vrankic are all solid players. I do not expect the Broncos to fall completely on their face as they did this last year (Caruso being out was, to me, a huge part of this.). Add in a FGCU wing grad transfer, I feel this team won’t have a shot at the NCAA, but they will stand above a certain Most Hated, just on sheer talent alone. Sendek usually gets one pro per school he’s been at... Jalen Williams will be that pro. However, the lack of a true PG and no real defined momentum wins for this program, along with shriveling in bigger game moments, will haunt the club and relegate them to a secondary post season tournament (if they qualify). Of all the teams with some good players who NEEDS to step up their scheduling aside from Pepperdine its Santa Clara. Good pieces who play against inferior competition seemingly fall flat in big moments and without good scheduling and no good wins, they’ve been an odd obstacle in the WCC for the last two years (a lot of pieces, possible potential, decent history, and nothing to show for any of it, not being a quality win and only contributing bad losses. Hoping for that trend to end in 2020).
7. Saint Mary’s Gaels
These are not your uncles St Mary’s Gaels. Jabe Mullins and Judah Brown May be big contributors as Freshmen but that’s a big if... MVK won’t be eligible, I’m guessing, immediately and Toss is out till 2021 if I remember correctly. Kuhse returns, and Bennett (despite all the jokes) does have a well engrained system and style. They’re going to land above two teams I believe have way more talent on board than SMC; but sometimes System prevails over talent, and there’s still unproven programs in The W who are going to look at McKeon as a much more intimidating venue than anyone in a Zag or Coug Jersey. No superstars after maybe what really was their most capable team, in terms of playing and winning against tournament caliber competition, had one (one and a half or maybe two). I could see a possibility of SMC sneaking into the Top 5 of the WCC but they are going to be more mismatched in 2020-21 against many WCC teams than they were in 2019-20 (because they had a clear "dude" and a good secondary "dude"). Again, Mullins or Brown could turn out to be a world beater, but the team has some big time flaws and athletic shortcomings that fall far short of more athletic and capable teams listed above (And maybe even two of the below).
8. Pacific Tigers
Damon Stoudamire did one amazing job coaching Pacific last year but had a player who very well should’ve never been in Stockton (Jahlil Tripp, maybe this miss is why certain Big East and A-10 programs are stuck in proverbial ruts, Lincoln student-BKNY, ten east coast schools with more prestige than Pacific could’ve and should’ve had him on scholarship.Just a side tangent..). However Pacific has quietly put together a replacement recruiting class of JuCos and transfers that will make them competitive (though no where near last years team, as schools like LMU already have a much clearer case as a "legit dark horse"). Jervay Green of Nebraska joins Jordan Bell of LMU, Nigel Shadd of Kansas State, a few JuCo and HS role players as useful additions. However, noted with Tripp but also Gallinat, Stoudamire seems to hit gold once in a while in the JuCo ranks, and Marial Mading (former URI commit) at 6’9"-6’11" has a big time skill set and plays with an edge... however he is still fairly raw, but I will say, undeniably one to watch this upcoming year.
9. San Diego Toreros
Sam Scholl did a great job in his first season at USD and guided the Pineiro led Toreros to a respectable season that finished with an NIT birth... and then a complete rebuild began. They have some nice pieces, noted in articles here, including Humphrey, Calcaterra, and Sullivan. They added a few grad transfers, but they are kind of all mid sized 2 guards or smaller wings. Though Massalski will be back to foul everyone and everything and shoot the oddest free throws ever, he will have a solid back up in UNM transfer Vladimir Pinchuk. Toreros are getting deeper and being built on defense; however, I feel the offensive woes will continue into this next year. I believe wholeheartedly they will be massively improved from last year, but they are still much younger and feature less big or physically imposing players than any other squad in the WCC. It should be noted they will have a few P5 transfers redshirting this year and arriving on the roster in 2021-22, and then you may see the Toreros start sneaking up in the conference power structure again. also, they have too nice of a mid major arena from a TV viewing optic for it to always be so empty. Give the tickets away at this point, who cares. (Half joke). At best they can finish with 14-15 wins, but this year isn’t theirs to step up into high competition levels, that may be 2021 and forward.
10. Portland Pilots
I don’t have much to say here. Half the roster from their last place squad chose to transfer out... no big time recruiting gets. Has anyone asked Terry Porter if he realizes there is no draft lottery in NCAA basketball? Honest opinion, I feel really sad about the situation here as Porter comes off as a good guy, who worked hard to get to a well heralded and memorable pro career; this may be a memory worthy of forgetting. I see a better chance of the Pilots going 0-16 than finishing anywhere above the 9 spot, if USD has injuries. Sub-300.