Men's Basketball Tabbed WCC Favorite

Oct. 18, 2006

SAN BRUNO, Calif. - It's the same old story for the Gonzaga University men's basketball team, but it's one they don't mind hearing over and over again.

They just hope the ending doesn't change.

The Bulldogs have been tabbed to capture their seventh straight West Coast Conference regular-season title and their ninth in the last 10 years in a pre-season vote of the conference coaches.

Gonzaga, which went 14-0 last season for its second perfect season in the last three years, tallied 62 points and received six first-place votes. Gonzaga is followed in the poll by 2006 WCC Tournament runner-up Loyola Marymount University (51), which received one first-place vote, the University of San Francisco (50), and Saint Mary's College (40), which also received a first-place nod. Rounding out this year's poll is the University of San Diego (33), picked fifth, followed by Santa Clara University (27) in sixth, Pepperdine University (16) in seventh and the University of Portland (9) in eighth.

Gonzaga's Derek Raivio, a senior point guard from Vancouver, Wash., was also selected as one of the top six returning players as selected by the conference coaches. Raivio suffered an early-season back injury in December last season and, after missing two games, never returned to the form he had shown as a sophomore when he averaged 13.0 ppg and 4.1 assists/game. Despite being slowed by the injury he still averaged 11.1 ppg and 2.8 assists/game last season in running the offense on a team that featured the nation's leading scorer in Adam Morrison (28.1 ppg) and one of the top inside players in the country in J.P. Batista (19.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

Raivio will be complemented by fellow starters Sean Mallon, a senior forward from Spokane who averaged 6.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg and junior guard Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes who averaged 4.2 ppg and 2.6 assists/game a year ago.

Gonzaga is coming off a 29-4 campaign, a No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and a NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen appearance.

Loyola Marymount, under second-year Head Coach Rodney Tention, was playing as well as any team in the conference at the end of last season. LMU came within two points of knocking off Gonzaga on its home floor in the WCC Tournament finale, dropping a 68-67 decision in the title game.

The Lions will lean on seniors Matthew Knight (16.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Brandon Worthy (15.0 ppg, 4.3 apg), both of whom were selected among the top returning players in the conference. Knight and Worthy give the Lions arguably the best inside-outside tandem in the conference as well as the only teammates in the WCC to have reached the 1,000-point plateau.

San Francisco, picked third in the preseason poll, should boast one of the top backcourts in the conference. Armondo Surratt, the 2006 WCC Newcomer of the Year and former University of Miami (Fla.) standout, teams up with University of Connecticut transfer Antonio Kellogg and Rutgers University transfer Manny Quezada to give the Dons three former Big East guards. USF also returns senior forward Alan Wiggins, Jr., who, along with Surratt, was selected as one of the top returnees in the WCC. Saint Mary's, coming off of a 17-12 campaign, rounds out the top half of the poll with 40 overall points.

San Diego, led by 2006 All-WCC freshmen team members Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare, is picked fifth, followed by Santa Clara in sixth. Pepperdine and Portland will be led by first-year head coaches Vance Walberg and Eric Reveno, respectively.

2006-07 WCC Men's Basketball Pre-Season Coaches Poll
(First-Place Votes In Parentheses)

1. Gonzaga (6) 62 2. Loyola Marymount (1) 51 3. San Francisco 50 4. Saint Mary's (1) 40 5. San Diego 33 6. Santa Clara 27 7. Pepperdine 16 8. Portland 9

2006-07 WCC Pre-Season Top Returnees (As voted by the league coaches)

Name, School (2006 Stats) Darren Cooper, POR (14.9 ppg, .450 3-pt percent) Matthew Knight, LMU (16.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) Derek Raivio, GON (11.1 ppg, 2.8 apg) Armondo Surratt, USF (14.2 ppg, 5.1 apg) Alan Wiggins, Jr., USF (14.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg) Brandon Worthy, LMU (15.0 ppg, 4.3 apg)

 

 

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