Simultaneously criticized as the worst conference in the sport and lauded as one of the few consistent multi-bid mid-major conference, the WCC has certainly had it’s share of ups and downs. It could be argued that over the last two to three years, the conference was becoming the most competitive league with the Pac-12 out west.
However, with many stars leaving, and the Pac-12 and Mountain West both appearing to be much improved, the WCC may once again be relegated to being Gonzaga University’s pre-NCAA Tournament punching bag.
There will be a lot of solid competition in the middle of the standings, but with only one clear tournament team in the mix, the of the conference’s 2020-21 success is still unknown. Let’s take a look at how the conference could shake out this season. This preview will include team-by-team breakdowns, projected rankings, key questions, stars to watch, and awards predictions.
10. portland pilots
Last season: 9-23 (1-15 Conf); No. 284 in DPI
Head coach: Terry Porter (5th year with school)
Key returners: Tahirou Diabete, Takiula Fahrensohn, Chase Adams
Notable newcomer: Ahmed Ali
It is hard to imagine Portland Head Coach Terry Porter surviving much longer at the helm of the struggling program. In four seasons, Porter has finished last three times and second-to-last once, and this year does not project to be much different.
Transfer guard Ahmed Ali brings some high major experience, and Tahirou Diabate should be one of the best forwards in the conference, but beyond that there is not a ton to like about the Pilots. It would take one heck of a coaching job for Portland to finish anywhere other than last, and Porter has not shown that he can be that type of coach. Perhaps the high turnover from last season is just what the team needs, but we shouldn’t be holding our breath.
9. San Diego Toreros
Last season: 9-23 (2-14 Conf); No. 228 in DPI
Head coach: Sam Scholl (3rd year with school)
Key returners: Joey Calcaterra, Yauhen Massalski, Finn Sullivan
Notable newcomers: Frankie Hughes, Josh Parrish, Ben Pyle
Unlike Porter, San Diego Head Coach Sam Scholl is not likely to be on the hot seat for another two to three years minimum. However, this season could go a long way in determining what Scholl’s legacy with the Toreros is going to be, and it looks pretty bleak.
The pieces Scholl has added in Franki Hughes, Josh Parrish and Vladamir Pinchuk, may be enough to replace the contributions of Braun Harfield, Alex Floresca and James Jean-Marie are not the type of players that will fix their defensive woes. Yauhen Massalski returns, which provides the Toreros with a strong senior presence down low, but the recent decision of Hartfield to transfer may have killed any glimmer hope for this season.
8. Santa Clara Broncos
Last season: 20-13 (6-10 Conf); No. 166 in DPI
Head coach: Herb Sendek (5th year with school)
Key returners: Josip Vrankic, DJ Mitchell, Keshawn Justice
Notable newcomers: Christian Carlyle
Trey Wertz and Tahj Eaddy are losses that are not easily overcome, and this puts Santa Clara in a bit of a bind. On one hand, the Broncos are likely going to start a pretty lengthy lineup with an efficient defense and strong front court. However, Keshawn Justice, Josip Vrankic and Guglielmo Caruso are not going to play point guard.
The one source of optimism for this squad is Herb Sendek’s ability to identify strong guard talent among underrated recruits. Whether Jalen Williams, FGCU transfer Christian Carlyle or one of the younger pieces on the roster are named the starting point guard, they will have plenty of talent around them to take some of the playmaking pressure off their shoulders. The team likely isn’t talented enough to compete for a top 4 seed in the conference tournament, but they are a dangerous team that could make winning difficult for their better opponents.