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BYU basketball: Cougars pegged to finish second in West Coast Conference

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 7:25 p.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — It came as no surprise that the West Coast Conference's "big three" were picked to finish atop the basketball standings.

All nine coaches voted in the preseason poll released Monday at a media event at the Time Warner Cable Sports studios.

BYU was picked to finish second, receiving one first-place vote, while Gonzaga, which garnered seven of the nine first-place votes, was selected to win the league.

Then there's Saint Mary's, which checked in at No. 3 and earned just one first-place vote, even though the Gaels are the defending regular-season and tournament champions.

"It's a good conference. It's a tough league," said Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett. "You can make an argument for picking BYU, Gonzaga or ourselves to win it. There are at least six teams that have a chance to win 20 games. We return 13 guys from the team that won it, including the player of the year. I feel good about our team, but other people feel good about other teams, too."

Gonzaga coach Mark Few watched Saint Mary's end the Bulldogs' run of 12 consecutive WCC championships a year ago. Being picked first is nothing new for him or his team.

"It's what our every guy on our team deals with every year," Few said. "We don't spend much time worrying about it."

Loyola Marymount was tabbed fourth in the poll, followed by San Diego, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Portland and Pepperdine. Just two points separated the fourth through sixth spots in the poll.

"If you would have polled our players, I think they would have told you we'd be between 1-4," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "When you're picked to win the league, that adds a bit of pressure to your team. That's not the case with us. We'll go forward and see what we can do."

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM: BYU senior Brandon Davies was named to the preseason All-WCC team, along Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr., Sam Dower, Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos; San Diego's Johnny Dee; Saint Mary's Matthew Dellavedova and Stephen Holt; Loyola Marymount's Anthony Ireland; and Santa Clara's Kevin Foster.

STAYING IN LAS VEGAS: The WCC is in its final year of an agreement to hold the basketball tournament at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

But it appears The Orleans will continue to be the WCC's home for years to come.

"We've been in discussions with The Orleans on an extension," said WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich. "People will be hearing an announcement from us soon on that. Certainly, we're very happy in Las Vegas. They've been great partners."

Some have expressed concern that the 9,500-seat venue would be too small to accommodate fans wanting to watch the tournament.

"We did a deep-dive study of all the buildings in the West to understand where the best home would be for the next three or four years for the basketball championships," Zaninovich said. "We're very lucky to have a great arena partner about the right size. In my opinion, it's better to be too small than too big. That gives us an NCAA Tournament-type atmosphere. People like the atmosphere in Las Vegas. We're optimistic about the future there."

NEW TV PARTNERSHIP: The WCC announced Monday a long-term partnership with Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles, increasing the league's exposure in Southern California.

"We are proud to partner with Time Warner Cable Sports to showcase West Coast Conference basketball to our Southern California fans in an unprecedented capacity," said Zaninovich.

TWC, which is also the new network for the Los Angeles Lakers, will broadcast a WCC game every Saturday. That game will be distributed to television partners throughout the WCC footprint — up to 20 million homes in all. the games will also be available to WCC fans everywhere on a digital platform.

BYU will be featured once on the game of the week — on Jan. 12, when the Cougars visit Santa Clara.

"The Game of the Week and pre-game show will help highlight our men's basketball programs and further strengthen our position as one of the best basketball conferences in the nation," Zaninovich said.

The commissioner added that 85 percent of conference games will be televised this year thanks to its broadcasting partners — ESPN, BYUtv and Time Warner.

2012-13 West Coast Conference preseason poll

Team (first place votes) points

1. Gonzaga (7) 63

2. BYU (1) 55

3. Saint Mary's (1) 52

4. Loyola Marymount 37

5. San Diego 36

6. Santa Clara 35

7. San Francisco 19

8. Portland 15

9. Pepperdine 12

2012-13 preseason All-West Coast Conference team

Player School Yr. Pos.

Gary Bell, Jr. Gonzaga So. G

Brandon Davies BYU Sr. F

Johnny Dee San Diego So. G

Matthew Dellavedova Saint Mary's Sr. G

Sam Dower Gonzaga Jr. C

Kevin Foster Santa Clara Sr. G

Elias Harris Gonzaga Sr. F

Stephen Holt Saint Mary's Jr. G

Anthony Ireland Loyola Marymount Jr G

Kevin Pangos Gonzaga So. G

EMAIL: jeffc@desnews.com

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