If senior forward Josh Heytvelt
is indeed reinstated from his indefinite suspension, the Zags will return three starters from a 23-win team. Heytvelt will be surrounded by all kinds of skill, led by junior Jeremy Pargo
(who inherits point guard duties from the departed Derek Raivio), senior guard David Pendergraft
(an all-WCC tournament pick last season) and Kansas transfer wing Micah Downs
(who sat out the first semester last year before averaging 16.6 points and seven rebounds over the team's final five games before NCAAs). Outside help should come from sophomore Matt Bouldin
, a returning starter who found his rhythm over the last two months and helped lead the Zags back to the NCAAs.
The Lions are promoting this season as a youth movement with nine underclassmen and just one senior on its roster, meaning it must replace 75 percent of its scoring and 64 percent of its rebounding from an injury-plagued team that went 13-18. The only senior is guard Jon Ziri
, who averaged just 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2006-07. The lone returning starter is junior forward Marko Deric
(5 ppg, 2.8 rpg). It could be another long season for LMU and third-year coach Rodney Tention, who lost leading player Brandon Worthy
for 17 games last season to a knee injury. Tention was able to turn things around his first season (LMU went from three WCC wins the year prior to his arrival to eight) but is back to rebuilding.
Vance Walberg promised an up-tempo style when he took over as coach last season and delivered. Now, he hopes the system delivers more wins. The Waves set conference records for 3-pointers attempted (843) and made (303), but finished 8-23 overall and 4-10 in league. Senior guard Kingsley Costain
(11.5 ppg) made a team-high 80 3's while shooting nearly 42 percent beyond the arc. The production inside begins with Jarrad Henry
, a 6-10 senior center who needs just five blocks to move into a tie for fifth on the school's all-time list. The rebuilding project continues with 11 new faces, including seven freshmen. One of the more explosive newcomers is Tyrone Shelley
, a 6-6 wing and the 98th-ranked Scouts Inc. recruit who is one of three new Waves arriving from Crawford High in San Diego.
Baby steps. It's where the Pilots are right now. A 9-23 team under first-year coach Eric Reveno last season, Portland ended a 10-year winless streak in the conference tournament with a first-round victory against Loyola Marymount. The returning starters are senior wing Sherrard Watson
(28 starts last season after none the previous two seasons) and sophomore point guard Taishi Ito
. Eight newcomers are on the roster, including Dutch junior national team member Robin Smeulders; redshirt sophomore guard Nik Raivio, brother of former Gonzaga standout point guard Derek Raivio; and freshman forward Luke Sikma, son of former NBA star Jack Sikma.
If there is a team that can wreck Gonzaga's pursuit of an eighth straight regular-season conference title, it is likely the Gaels. Seventh-year head coach Randy Bennett returns eight players who all made at least one start last season. One of the league's best is junior forward Diamon Simpson
, an all-conference selection who led Saint Mary's in scoring (14.1), rebounding (7.7), blocks (2.4) and steals (1.3). He is supported by 6-11 sophomore center Omar Samhan
, an all-freshman performer in the WCC after averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. Led by Simpson, Saint Mary's had a WCC-record 172 blocks, shattering the previous mark of 159 by Pepperdine in 2002.
New head coach Bill Grier realizes it will take much work to get a similar talent base as he had at Gonzaga. Grier does inherit a team with four returning starters, including one of the league's better frontcourt players in junior forward and first-team all-conference pick Gyno Pomare
(14.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and a capable point guard in junior Brandon Johnson
(12.8 ppg, 4.8 apg). A major key is to find a scoring replacement for departed guard Ross DeRogatis
and his 15.7 average and 228 career 3-pointers. Danny Brown is one potential answer outside after the junior guard made 21-of-58 3s last season.
Anything short of another upper-tier finish would be disappointing given that the Dons return three starters from a team that finished conference 8-6 last season and in a tie for third. Manny Quezada
averaged 13.2 points in his first season at USF following the guard's transfer from Rutgers. Two other transfers to watch this season are sophomore forward Dior Lowhorn (who started 10 games as a freshman at Texas Tech while averaging 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds) and sophomore Hyman Taylor, who arrives from Virginia Tech and, at 6-9, 245 pounds, affords the Dons a needed inside threat. Jay Watkins
earned all-WCC freshman honors last season.
New head coach Kerry Keating has six upperclassmen from which to start the process of keeping the Broncos near the top of the standings, beginning with senior point guard Brody Angley
(8.3 ppg, 3.8 apg). Angley needs just four more starts to tie Steve Nash for 10th on the school's all-time list. Junior center John Bryant
already ranks fourth in school history with 87 blocks and can tie Kurt Rambis for third with seven more. Bryant had 49 blocks last season to go along with 10.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. The Broncos need senior Mitch Henke
(6.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) to bounce back from a season where he was limited to 13 starts with an ankle injury. Henke started every game in 2005-06, when he averaged 9.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg.