(Non) breaking news: Gonzaga picked to win WCC, BYU second
In two years, the BYU men’s basketball team will be competing in the Big 12 against a new group of teams, looking to form new rivalries.
Until then, the Cougars have their sights set on Gonzaga … again.
The Bulldogs, despite sending Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi to the NBA, were selected by the league’s coaches to win the West Coast Conference in 2021-22. Gonzaga received 81 points and nine of the ten first-place votes. This is the 20th time in the past 21 seasons the Bulldogs have been picked to win the conference.
BYU received 72 points and one first-place vote. Voting takes place from the league’s head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own team.
Gonzaga, the NCAA runner-up last season, does return perhaps the league’s best player in 6-10 junior forward Drew Timme, who averaged 19 points per game and shot 61 percent from the field. Also on board for this season are senior guard Andrew Nembhard (WCC Sixth Man of the Year), Iowa State transfer guard Rasir Bolton (15.5 points per game last season) and the nation’s top freshman in 7-0 guard/forward Chet Holmgren.
Once again the Bulldogs are expected to be one of the elite teams in college basketball.
The Cougars (20-7, 10-3 WCC) return eight players — five who got starting minutes at different points — from last season’s squad that went to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed. The Cougars also have nine newcomers vying for playing time. BYU will look to return to the NCAA Tournament behind a new mix of veterans and transfers guided by head coach Mark Pope, who begins his third season at the helm. Guards Te’Jon Lucas (Milwaukee) and Seneca Knight (LSU) are expected to make an immediate impact in the backcourt.
In addition to the preseason poll for order of finish, BYU landed two players on the All-WCC preseason team: Alex Barcello and Caleb Lohner.
After initially exploring NBA Draft options over the offseason, Alex Barcello decided to return for one more year with the Cougars in 2021-22. The outright emotional and statistical leader on last season’s squad, Barcello led BYU in points (16.1), assists (4.3), steals (0.9), three-point percentage (47.7%) and free-throw percentage (85.6%). He was No. 10 nationally in three-point percentage. He was named to the All-WCC first team and and was an AP All-America Honorable Mention.
Lohner was named to the All-WCC freshman team last season. He worked his way into a starting position, starting 13 games total. Even when he was coming off the bench, Lohner led the team in rebounding all season, at 7.1 boards per game. He poured it on offensively late in the season, scoring a career-high 19 points against Pacific on Feb. 18. He followed that up with 18 points two nights later. Lohner averaged 7.0 points per game. He was named WCC Freshman of the Week twice.
BYU will open the season with an exhibition contest against Colorado Christian on Nov. 4 in Provo. The regular season officially begins Tuesday, Nov. 9 against Cleveland State at the Marriott Center.
2021-22 WCC Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Gonzaga (9) 81
2. BYU (1) 72
3. Saint Mary’s 63
4. Loyola Marymount 56
5. San Francisco 49
6. Santa Clara 45
7. Pepperdine 31
8. Pacific 24
9. San Diego 20
10. Portland 9
All-WCC Preseason Team
Alex Barcello, Sr. G, BYU
Jamaree Bouyee, Sr. G, San Francisco
Logan Johnson, Sr. G, Saint Mary’s
Caleb Lohner, So. F, BYU
Andrew Nembhard, Sr. G, Gonzaga
Eli Scott, Sr. G/F, Loyola Marymount
Khalil Shabazz, Sr. G, San Francisco
Drew Timme, Jr. F, Gonzaga
Josip Vrankic, Sr. F, Santa Clara
Jalen Williams, Jr. G, Santa Clara
BYU Courtesy PhotoBYU freshman Caleb Lohner shoots a free throw against Weber State in a men’s college basketball game at Vivint SmartHome Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.