PROVO — West Coast Conference basketball coaches are happy about the addition of BYU to the league.
The Cougars, who began their second season as members of the WCC last week, have impacted the league both on and off the court over the past year.
"They've really enhanced our profile," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told the Deseret News at WCC media day last October. "People can look at our conference and legitimately say that it's a three-bid league. It helped our fight of making it a national-caliber league."
Last season, Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and BYU each earned bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Few also likes the budding rivalry between the 'Zags and the Cougars.
"Both programs and the kids in both programs are highly competitive," he said. "There's a mutual respect. Coach (Dave) Rose is a great coach, but more importantly, he's a great guy. It's a healthy rivalry."
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett not only enjoys what BYU brings to the WCC, but he also appreciates being able to play in a venue like the Marriott Center.
"The addition of BYU has changed the game for our league — for the better. The BYU name is national and the quality of their basketball program is very good," Bennett said. "Now within our league, we have two more cracks at getting a top-30 or top-50 win, RPI-wise. Then you're going to a place that holds 21,000 seats. That sells, even for opponents. In our conference, we play in some great atmospheres. It enhances our conference."
Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, whose team visits the Marriott Center Thursday, has an interesting perspective of BYU because he was an assistant under Ray Giacoletti and Jim Boylen at Utah from 2005-08.
"I've known of their impact when I was at Utah. I knew what they were going to bring to the league, and they bring a lot," Wilson said. "They have a great program. Coach Rose has done an unbelievable job since he took over. They're very disciplined, very good at running their stuff, and playing at a high pace. Their fan base is unbelievable. They travel as well or better as anyone in our league, probably even better than Gonzaga. I think that will continue. They bring value to our league. We want to continue to get better as a league."
What's it like to coach a home game and see scores of visiting Cougar fans in the stands?
"It's a challenge, because they probably had more people (in Pepperdine's arena) than we did last year," Wilson said. "Hopefully as we get better, we can avoid giving them as many tickets. But as long as there are people in the building, it motivates us to play hard. It's a great thing."
Loyola Marymount coach Max Good, who saw his team fall to the Cougars in Provo last Thursday, said adding BYU has been a positive for the WCC.
"I think it's been terrific for our league. I'm so glad BYU is in our league," he said. "They give us another nationally known team. The more the merrier. Anytime you can add really good teams to our league, it helps. Saint Mary's and Gonzaga are already very, very good. You get BYU, there are three teams that are hard to overcome."
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