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Who to watch for in West Coast Conference play this winter

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8 2013 1:05 p.m. MST

BYU's Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws laugh after a made shot as BYU and Virginia Tech play Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena. Haws scored a game high 42 points and Davies added 17 as BYU won 97-71. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws laugh after a made shot as BYU and Virginia Tech play Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena. Haws scored a game high 42 points and Davies added 17 as BYU won 97-71. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

With the first weekend of West Coast Conference play in the books, take note — this is not the conference of pushovers.

Gonzaga has been the story of the West Coast Conference up to now. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 8 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 9 in the Associated Press poll.

The last time Gonzaga was ranked that high was in 2010. During that season, the Bulldogs went two weeks as the No. 9 team in the nation in the USA Today coaches poll.

The Bulldogs haven't taken the easy road on the way to the premier ranking. They defeated West Virginia on Nov. 12, Clemson on Nov. 22, Oklahoma on Nov. 25, Washington State on Dec. 5, Kansas State on Dec. 15, Baylor on Dec. 28 and Oklahoma State on New Year's Eve.

BYU has played a schedule nearly as difficult as the Bulldogs, but the Cougars dropped their high-profile contests of the preseason, suffering losses to Iowa State, Baylor, Notre Dame and Florida State.

Still, following the first weekend of play, the Cougars are riding a four-game winning streak and have also won seven of their last eight games — their only loss coming against Baylor.

Meanwhile, defending regular-season and tournament champion St. Mary's College has struggled in the early going, but has defeated a few notable opponents.

The Gaels became one of the few teams in the Stew Morrill era to beat Utah State twice in nonconference contests in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. That win Nov. 15 is the Aggies' only loss of the season, and it was the second time St. Mary's has won in Logan in the last two years.

The surprise of the WCC has been the Santa Clara Broncos. They finished dead last in the WCC last year — losing every single conference game.

This year they've already surpassed their overall win total from last year, though they did lose to Gonzaga in the early going of conference play.

San Diego, Loyola Marymount, and San Francisco are also fighting to also have successful conference seasons.

Here are the WCC standings through the first weekend of conference play:

1. No. 8 Gonzaga, 2-0 (15-1)

1. BYU, 2-0 (12-4)

3. St. Mary's, 1-0 (12-3)

3. San Diego, 1-0 (8-8)

5. Pepperdine, 1-1 (9-6)

5. Santa Clara, 1-1 (12-4)

7. Loyola Marymount, 0-2 (7-8)

7. Portland, 0-2 (7-10)

7. San Francisco, 0-2 (7-8)

West Coast basketball conference play enters its second week with top players looking to lift their teams to victory in search of a conference championship.

Here are the 10 players you should look out for through the remainder of WCC play.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com, lhemsley@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney, @EarlOfHemsley

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