BYU basketball: West Coast Conference a hoops haven

Published: Saturday, July 2 2011 10:50 p.m. MDT

It doesn't hurt that in February, the NCAA announced that Zaninovich has been appointed to the Division I Men's Basketball Committee, beginning this year.

Gonzaga is not the only WCC team to flex its muscles in the NCAA Tournament. Saint Mary's reached the Sweet 16 in 2010 while San Diego upset Connecticut in 2008 in the first round.

Perhaps the biggest change for BYU, though, could be in its nonconference opponents.

"We're trying to get as competitive of a nonconference schedule as we can, which we're in a much better position to do that with our alignment with ESPN. And then you've got to win games on the road, and at home, win the conference championship and then try to get to the NCAA Tournament. We're excited about the new locations."

The WCC's television contract with ESPN has opened doors for impressive nonconference games for Gonzaga and other WCC members. Last season, for example, the Bulldogs played Kansas State, Notre Dame, Xavier, Oklahoma State and Xavier.

Meanwhile, thanks to help from ESPN, Portland hosted powerhouse Kentucky at the Rose Garden last season.

"That would be nice if someday we could get Kentucky to visit us," Rose said.

Holmoe said the plan is to strengthen BYU's nonconference schedule as it joins the WCC.

"Our model will be to play a very, very challenging nonconference basketball schedule. We want that. I don't think you could say we have a real challenging nonconference schedule," he said. "That's what we're looking to do. If you look around the country, most basketball teams don't have a killer nonconference schedule. But we'll try to compete. A lot of teams don't want to come to BYU or Utah State. Why in the world would you play Utah State in Logan if you're a top-25 basketball team? What do you have to gain? The question is, what do you have to gain to play at BYU? Well, TV is one, and we have a high enough RPI that it's going to help. Hopefully we'll carry on the tradition of being a strong team. Gonzaga gets good teams to play them."

BYU's 2011-12 basketball schedule is expected to be released later this summer.

"We're kind of in an interesting situation right now. It's always been hard to schedule here, especially the level of schedule that we want to play," Rose said. "With the move to the WCC, we haven't seen any real difference yet. It's seems to be a challenge. Hopefully this spring we'll get some movement and be able to finish up our schedule. But in the next year or two we will be able to kind of use our league to help us schedule preseason games that will be real exciting for the fans. Right now we're in the process of completing that schedule, with the majority of it done but still quite a few games to fill."

Other basketball issues affecting the WCC and BYU:

Conference tournament

One major difference is that the conference tournament, held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, will no longer be played on Sundays, a move to accommodate BYU, which does not compete on that day for religious reasons.

The 2012 WCC Tournament tips off on Feb. 29.

"We like having a day off (on Sunday)," Zaninovich said.

The Orleans Arena, a neutral facility, holds 7,471 seats for basketball. The WCC Tournament, officially known as the Zappos.com WCC Basketball Championships, has set tournament records for revenue, total attendance and single-game attendance since moving to the Orleans Arena. A contract is in place to keep the WCC Tournament at Orleans Arena through 2012.

Limited seating at The Orleans has sparked questions about moving the tournament to a bigger venue to accommodate fans from BYU as well as Gonzaga, which has strong support from traveling fans.

But Holmoe isn't concerned about that for now.

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