BYU MenÕs basketball vs. Nevada 11

Brigham Young University guard Alex Barcello (4) celebrates along with his teammates as a timeout is taken during a game between the BYU Cougars and the Nevada Wolf Pack on Tuesday, Dec.10, 2019, at the Marriott Center in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

BYU men’s basketball received one first-place vote in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll.

What do you want to bet that vote belongs to Gonzaga’s Mark Few?

His Bulldogs received the other nine first-place votes, naturally, and coaches can’t vote for themselves, so you do the math.

Few obviously remembers the last time the two teams met, way back on Feb. 22. The Cougars pulled off a 91-78 victory in front of a sellout crowd at the Marriott Center, the highlight of a season cut short by the coronavirus.

Gonzaga had 81 votes overall and are projected to win the WCC, just like every year. BYU received 69 votes and Saint Mary’s 63.

BYU and Saint Mary’s are picked near the top out of reflex, really, because both teams are replacing major contributors. The Cougars graduated five seniors (Jake Toolson, Yoeli Childs, T.J. Haws, Zac Seljaas and Dalton Nixon) that were the heart of a team projected to be a No. 6 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Gaels won’t look the same without do-everything guard Jordan Ford, super talented forward Malik Fitts and dependable Tanner Krebs. Ford and Krebs graduated and Fitts left the program early to declare for the NBA Draft.

Both teams will attempt to reload and traditionally they’ve been able to do so. But Pepperdine could challenge to break into the top three.

The only Cougar on the preseason All- WCC Team is senior Alex Barcello, but Mark Pope has delivered a unique and talented roster for 2020-21.

Still, the team to catch is always Gonzaga, which pulled its best-ever recruiting class. The Bulldogs will be somewhat young but when has that ever stopped them? Gonzaga could be the No. 1-ranked team in the country when the polls come out.

Meanwhile, a lot of questions remain for BYU in terms of scheduling. Last week Pope said the Cougars were close to finalizing contracts but all of college basketball is still trying to figure out what the season will look like. Last week the NCAA approved a second MTE (multi-team event) for all schools to help them solidify scheduling. According to reports, the WCC is considering a bubble-type setup in Las Vegas for league games, which are scheduled to begin at the end of December.

Here’s a preview that was included in the news release about a month from actually tip-off for the preseason:

Gonzaga is the preseason favorite to win its ninth-straight West Coast Conference regular season title. The Bulldogs received the maximum nine first-place votes and 81 points. Gonzaga is once again generating national buzz and will likely emerge as the preseason No. 1 team for the first time in program history in 2020-21. Last season the Zags were a lock for a No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and were ranked No. 2 nationally to close out the regular season after spending five weeks at No. 1 and 14 weeks in the top-three.

Gonzaga (31-2, 15-1 WCC) still owns the longest active string of NCAA Sweet-16 appearances with five and placed senior forward Corey Kispert and junior guard Joel Ayayi, the 2020 WCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player on the preseason All-WCC team. In the current edition (Oct. 7) of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed in the West, while BYU is tabbed as a No. 11 seed in the West.

Saint Mary’s (26-8, 11-5 WCC) was third in the preseason poll with 63 points. The Gaels were projected as a No. 8 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament a year after making the 2019 field after upsetting Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament finals. Junior center Matthias Tass earned a spot on the preseason All-WCC team after emerging as a force on the low block, averaging 6.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 23.4 minutes of action as a sophomore before suffering a season-ending injury in non-conference play.

Pepperdine (16-16, 8-8 WCC) was picked fourth in the survey with 57 points. One of the most electric guards in the country, senior guard Colbey Ross averaged 20.5 points and 7.2 assists per game in 2019-20. No returning NCAA player has more career assists than Ross with 647. Joining Ross on the preseason All-WCC team for the second-straight year is junior forward Kessler Edwards, who averaged 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in his second season in Malibu.

San Francisco (22-12, 9-7 WCC) rounds out the top-five with 52 points. Preseason all-WCC selection Jamaree Bouyea figures to lead the way for the Dons. The senior guard had a breakthrough 2019-20 campaign, averaging 12.2 points, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals to help USF to its fourth consecutive 20-win season.

Santa Clara (20-13, 6-10 WCC) was picked sixth with 38 points. The Broncos opened the 2019-20 regular season on a 14-2 tear the program’s best start out of the gate since the 1968-69 squad went 21-0. Senior forward Josip Vrankic earned a spot on the preseason All-WCC team after averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his third season.

Loyola Marymount (11-21, 4-12 WCC) was picked seventh with 33 points. The Lions welcome a new head coach in Stan Johnson and the return of preseason All-WCC selection Eli Scott, who led the Lions with 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in a breakthrough junior season highlighted by the first triple-double in program history.

Pacific (23-10, 11-5 WCC) was picked eighth with 31 votes. The Tigers posted their first 20-win season since 2010-11 as Damon Stoudamire collected WCC Coach of the Year honors. San Diego (9-23, 2-14) was picked ninth followed by Portland (9-23, 1-15).

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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