BYU COUGARS

BYU Seeking First WCC Title In League That Is More Than Small Gyms

Jan 2, 2020, 1:08 PM
Mark Pope - BYU Basketball...
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope claps his hands as BYU and Cal State Fullerton play a college basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball prepares for their ninth year in the West Coast Conference. Since BYU joined the WCC, it’s still taken some adjustments for Cougar fans to get used to the small gyms and tiny fan bases within the conference comprised of faith-based programs.

But one thing that can’t be ignored is that the West Coast Conference has improved since BYU joined the league in 2011.

Entering Thursday’s opening night for the WCC men’s basketball schedule, the WCC is ranked as the ninth-best conference in America according to the KenPom rankings and it features the No. 1 team in the country in the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

“The league is really, really good. It’s going to be really, really competitive and it’s really well-coached. It’s a great league, man,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “The people that don’t know basketball kind of look at the small gyms are like, ‘ah that’s not a great league.’ It’s a freakin’ great league and it’s really competitive. I’m glad we’re in it.”

The non-conference was record-setting for the WCC. The league produced the most wins they’ve ever had with 102 and the best winning percentage at 68.5 percent.

When BYU entered the WCC, the program was riding high off of a Sweet 16 appearance with Jimmer Fredette that included a win over Gonzaga in the Round of 32, but that success in the Mountain West hasn’t equated to conference titles in the WCC.

Through the first eight years in the league, BYU has yet to win a WCC regular season or tournament title. But this year’s BYU squad might be their best team since that Sweet 16 team with Jimmer Fredette.

BYU comes into conference play with an 11-4 record overall and has yet to lose a game when their star forward Yoeli Childs isn’t suspended or injured. But the WCC will always go through Gonzaga.

Since BYU joined the WCC, Gonzaga has had only two seasons where they lost more than two conference games. The margin for error is thin for anyone in a league with the Zags, making every WCC game critical. The 16-game WCC schedule starts for BYU on Saturday night against Loyola Marymount at the Marriott Center (7 p.m. KSL NewsRadio & BYUtv).

WCC Snapshots

*Rankings are from NCAA’s Evaluation Tool (NET)

Gonzaga

Record: 14-1

NET Ranking: 6

Saint Mary’s

Record: 13-2

NET Ranking: 32

BYU

Record: 11-4

NET Ranking: 34

Santa Clara

Record: 13-2

NET Ranking: 88

San Francisco

Record: 11-4

NET Ranking: 104

Pacific

Record: 12-4

NET Ranking: 147

Pepperdine

Record: 7-7

NET Ranking: 173

San Diego

Record: 7-8

NET Ranking: 205

Loyola Marymount

Record: 6-8

NET Ranking: 234

Portland

Record: 8-7

NET Ranking: 248

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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