Men's Basketball WCC Home Opener Against Saint Mary's
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University's men's basketball team will begin the second - and last - season of the new-look West Coast Conference with a pair of road games Jan. 3 at Pepperdine University and Jan. 5 at Santa Clara University, according to the 2013 conference schedule announced Thursday.
The Bulldogs will make their 2013 WCC home debut Thursday, Jan. 10 against Saint Mary's College, which halted Gonzaga's string of 11 straight WCC regular-season titles last season and also downed the Zags in the WCC Tournament championship game. Following the Thursday matchup with the Gaels the Bulldogs will have a rare Saturday off and not be in action again until a Thursday, Jan. 17 contest at the University of Portland. Two days later Gonzaga will step outside of WCC action to play at Butler University as part of ESPN's College GameDay.
BYU joined the WCC last season to give the conference nine teams, and the University of the Pacific will join the WCC for the 2013-14 campaign to up league membership to 10 schools. Gonzaga, which split the season series with the Cougars last season with each winning on its home court, will host the Cougars Jan. 24 with the University of San Francisco in town Jan. 26.
The Zags will have a Wednesday home game during WCC action, hosting Santa Clara University Feb. 20 followed by a Saturday home game with the University of San Diego Feb. 23. Gonzaga concludes the WCC regular season with its only split home and away trip of the season, heading to BYU Thursday, Feb. 28, and returning home for the regular-season finale March 2 against the University of Portland.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, entering his 13th year at the helm and his 24th year overall in the program, is anticipating another challenging WCC race. The Bulldogs went 26-7 overall, 13-3 in the WCC last season.
"I think it's going to be really tough," Few noted. "Saint Mary's lost one guy and has everybody back. (Matthew) Dellavedova is playing in the Olympics (with Australia) and looks great. Obviously, BYU year-in and year-out will be consistent. Dave (head coach Rose) has done a great job of making them a consistent national player."
Few also looks for the remainder of the league to show improvement.
"The rest of the league will be a little older and will probably be a little better. Santa Clara will certainly be better with Marc Trasolini back, San Diego gets a year older, Loyola Marymount still has Anthony Ireland who is a very good player. It will be a tough league," Few said.
Santa Clara went 0-16 last season with Trasolini sidelined.
Few expects the Bulldogs to be ready to face the challenges ahead.
"This team has been through a lot. The guards are going to be sophomores, but yet have a lot of experience under them. Guy (Landry Edi) got a lot of experience under his belt and the big guys are definitely our most experienced unit. I think Elias (Harris) is primed for a great senior year and I think people are going to be surprised as to how much Kelly (Olynyk) has improved. He did a nice job with his redshirt year," Few said.
Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. combined for 58 starts and more than 1,100 minutes as freshmen a year ago. Pangos paced the team in scoring at 13.6 ppg, including a season-high 33 points early in the season against Washington State University. His 3.6 assists/game also topped the team. Bell averaged 10.4 ppg and 2.0 assists/game.
Harris is the third returning starter who averaged double-digit points last year at 13.1. His 8.5 rpg led the team.
Pangos and Harris were named to the All-WCC first team, Pangos was the Newcomer of the Year and Pangos and Bell were selected to the All-Freshman team.
Edi, a junior college transfer a year ago, started 15 of his 25 appearances, averaging 17.3 minutes/game, while Olynyk redshirted as a junior last season. He averaged 3.8 ppg and 2.7 rpg as a sophomore while coming off the bench in all 34 games.
The WCC television schedule and game times will be announced later.
20113 GONZAGA WCC SCHEDULE
3 - at Pepperdine, 5 - at Santa Clara, 10 - Saint Mary's, 17 - at Portland, 24 - BYU, 26 - San Francisco, 31 - at Loyola Marymount.
2 - at San Diego, 7 - Pepperdine, 9 - Loyola Marymount, 14 - at Saint Mary's, 16 - at San Francisco, 20 - Santa Clara, 23 - San Diego, 28 - at BYU.
2 - Portland.