Gonzaga University edged Saint Mary's College and the University of San Diego in the 2008-09 WCC men's basketball pre-season poll as selected by the league coaches. The announcement was made at the 2008 WCC Basketball Media Day at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, site of the 2009 WCC Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs received five of the eight first-place votes - coaches couldn't vote for their teams - and garnered 46 points. The Gaels had a pair of first-place votes and 44 points and USD received the other first-place nod and 39 points.
Gonzaga, SMC and USD all advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Rounding out this year's poll is Santa Clara University (30) in fourth, the University of San Francisco (23) picked fifth, followed by the University of Portland (22) in sixth, Loyola Marymount University (12) in seventh and Pepperdine University (11) in eighth.
The WCC Pre-season All-Conference team was also unveiled at the media day, highlighted by eight returning 2008 All-WCC first team members, the most returning all league players in conference history. Headlining the preseason all-conference list was Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo, the reigning WCC Player of the Year, as well as Saint Mary's Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson, last season's WCC Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
The Zags return 10 letterwinners, including three starters, from last season's squad that posted a 25-8 overall record, captured its eighth consecutive WCC regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive season. Headlining the list of returners for the Bulldogs is Pargo, the 2008 WCC Player of the Year. Pargo leads a talented backcourt that includes junior guard Matt Bouldin, a 2008 All-WCC first team member, and sophomore Steven Gray, a 2008 All-WCC freshman team selection. Austin Daye, another WCC All-Freshman selection and a WCC honorable mention pick a year ago, also returns to bolster the Gonzaga attack.
Saint Mary's, looking for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, returns four starters and eight letterwinners overall from last season's squad that tied the school record for most wins in a season with a 25-7 overall mark. Mills, a sophomore guard, returns to the Gaels after starring for the Australian National Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Mills will team with Simpson, a senior forward, to give the Gaels one of the top inside-outside tandems in the league.
Head coach Bill Grier had a successful debut season at San Diego, leading the Toreros to the 2008 WCC Tournament title and their fourth NCAA Tournament bid in program history. Once there, the Toreros pulled off one of the most memorable upsets of the tournament, knocking off No. 4 seeded University of Connecticut 70-69 in overtime in the first round. The Toreros return all five starters and 10 letterwinners overall from last season's squad. Leading the way for the Toreros is the senior duo of guard Brandon Johnson and forward Gyno Pomare, both of whom earned 2008 All-WCC first team honors.
This season, the WCC welcomes three new head coaches to the fold. Bill Bayno takes over at Loyola Marymount, while Pepperdine welcomes back Tom Asbury, who guided the Waves for six successful seasons (1988-94). Rounding out the list of new head coaches is Rex Walters, who is guiding USF.
2008-09 WCC Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll
(First-Place Votes In Parentheses)
1. Gonzaga (5) 46
2. Saint Mary's (2) 44
3. San Diego (1) 39
4. Santa Clara 30
5. San Francisco 23
6. Portland 19
7. Loyola Marymount 12
8. Pepperdine 11
2008-09 WCC Men's Pre-season All-Conference Team
Matt Bouldin, GON
John Bryant, SCU
Austin Daye, GON
Brandon Johnson, USD
Dior Lowhorn, USF
Patrick Mills, SMC
Jeremy Pargo, GON
Gyno Pomare, USD
Omar Samhan, SMC
Diamon Simpson, SMC