Stay up late for this WCC showdown

Updated: January 29, 2009, 4:19 PM ET
By Fran Fraschilla

If you are a true college hoops junkie, then Thursday's West Coast Conference battle between the league's only ranked teams, Saint Mary's and eight-time defending champion Gonzaga in Spokane (ESPN2, 11 ET), is as enticing a treat as you will have this week. If you haven't been paying close attention, this is a full-fledged rivalry because the Gaels have competed with the Zags for the top of the conference in the last couple of years.

No.18 Saint Mary's (18-1, 5-0 WCC) comes into this matchup with a 15-game winning streak and has its best team in coach Randy Bennett's eight-year tenure. In fact, with three seniors, a redshirt junior and brilliant sophomore point guard Patty Mills, who likely will declare for the NBA draft after this season, all of Bennett's marbles are likely being played this season. He will certainly be a hot coaching commodity again this spring.