With men’s basketball now underway, all eyes turn to the WCC schedule. Coach Stan Johnson says his off-season recruiting goal was to “get bigger, more athletic, and improve our perimeter shooting.” He added two athletic centers and three prolific shooters. “The guys have worked hard and went on a European tour with multiple successes,” he says. “We are looking forward to WCC competition.”
Basketball blogger Tuck Clarry previews the opposition.
This is their farewell, as they prepare to set off to the Big 12. And it could be an excruciating goodbye as the Cougars’ roster faces major overturn. Sophomore do-everything Fousseyni Traore will be asked to do even more after an impressive freshman campaign. The 6-foot-6-inch center had one of the best rebounding rates in the conference and will need to repeat it if BYU hopes to finish in the top half.
The reign of terror continues: Gonzaga reloads and returns three future pros who want another go for the NCAA title. Drew Timme will be in the NPOY conversation yet again, and the addition of Southern Conference POY Malachi Smith will bolster an already stacked roster.
The Tigers are 53-96 in the conference since joining it. So, just like when you see “Stockton” road signs on the I-5: keep driving.
Something special is brewing in the WCC with NBA talent. Sophomore guards Houston Mallette and Maxwell Lewis could add their names to USF’s Jamaree Bouyea and Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams as WCC draftees down the road. The question is whether coach Lorenzo Romar has surrounded them with complementary talent.
The Pilots shocked everyone last season. Shantay Legans won more conference games in his first season with Portland than his predecessor won in five. And that entire roster is returning, with the addition of transfer seven-footer Joey St. Pierre, making the Pilots a solid dark horse to finish in the top half of the conference.
The Gaels return to torment opponents with Randy Bennett’s patented slowed-down tempo. He squeezes not just the life but the fun out of the game, one 30-second isolation possession at a time. The Gaels lost leader Tommy Kuhse but have plenty of young talent to remain a guaranteed top three finisher in the league.
The Toreros made a big splash by hiring former UCLA coach Steve Lavin. They also added major transfer portal pieces from Stanford and Oregon. Theirs is a roster that can compete in the WCC. But Lavin also cleaned house of his staff in late summer, something that caught the ire of many. We’ll see how the culture shakes out this season.
Lost in the shuffle of last season’s magical ride was how good Khalil Shabazz is. He is a terrific, dynamic two-way player who could lead the league not just in offensive numbers but in defensive steal rate too. He could have followed coach Todd Golden to Florida, but he chose to stay in the Bay.
Santa Clara lost their two best players and will struggle to match their third-place finish. Transfer Brandin Podziemski is someone to look out for. The former four-star prospect lit it up from outside during the Broncos’ international trip this past summer.
Tuck Clarry (www.tuckclarry.com) is a contributor to Busting Brackets, a website featuring NCAA news and opinions.