Aug. 2, 2003
SAN BRUNO, Calif. - Last season, Gonzaga won its third straight regular season title and West Coast Conference coaches feel the 2003-04 race for the league crown could remain in Spokane, Wash., as Gonzaga was tabbed to claim first place in the league's preseason poll.
Gonzaga went 12-2 in league last season and posted a 24-9 overall record. The Bulldogs return a league-high three first team all-conference players, including league player of the year Blake Stepp and forwards Ronny Turiaf and Cory Violette. Stepp led the league in scoring, assists and three-pointers made during last year's conference season.
Pepperdine and Saint Maryıs tied for second in the poll with 37 points each. In 2003, the Gaels made a six-win jump to a 15-15 record, which was SMC's best-record since winning the league in 1997 (23-8). SMC also made its second straight appearance in the WCC tournament semifinals, defeating Santa Clara and Pepperdine before falling to Gonzaga in the semis.
Last season, Pepperdine lost two projected starters and their sixth man due to injury early in the year, but still managed to finish fourth in league play and earn a bye into the second round of the WCC tournament. The Waves' backcourt features the last two WCC Freshman of Year in Alex Acker (2003) and Terrance Johnson (2002).
San Francisco is picked fourth in this year's poll and has the unfortunate task of replacing 1,800+ point scorer Darrell Tucker in 2003-04. Rounding out the poll are 2003 WCC Tournament champion San Diego, followed by Santa Clara, Portland and Loyola Marymount, respectively.
Santa Clara returns four starters as well as 2002 all-WCC guard Kyle Bailey this season. The Broncos produced back-to-back 13-15 seasons but are expected to feature one of the top backcourts in the WCC with Bailey, Brandon Rohe, Ethan Rohde, Alex Kargbo and signee Doron Perkins. The inside should be anchored by senior Jim Howell and junior Jordan Legge.
2003-04 WCC Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Gonzaga (7) - 49
2. Saint Maryıs (1) - 37
Pepperdine - 37
4. San Francisco - 32
5. San Diego - 23
6. Santa Clara - 22
7. Portland - 13
8. Loyola Marymount - 11
2003-04 WCC Preseason Top Returners
(as voted by the league coaches)
Blake Stepp, Gonzaga
Cory Violette, Gonzaga
Ronny Turiaf, Gonzaga
John Cox, San Francisco
Daniel Kickert, Saint Mary's
Kyle Bailey, Santa Clara