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This week in the WCC: No. 20 Gonzaga leads the way as conference play opens with four Saturday games

Everyone but Pacific and Saint Mary’s open their conference seasons today, but on Monday, all ten teams are in action. Here’s what to look for in each opening matchup.

NCAA Womens Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs San Diego
Senior guard Laura Stockton and the Gonzaga Bulldogs look to three-peat as WCC champions in 2018-19.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what happened in the previous season, no matter who’s picked to win the conference, at the onset of every new West Coast Conference season it always feels like everyone is chasing Gonzaga.

The Zags have certainly earned that right this season, now sitting at a program-best 11-1 start to lead the pack early in the WCC. Even their sole loss was a pretty good one, a 16-point defeat to then-No. 1 Notre Dame. But the teams in this conference know each other so well, playing each other twice a year, that there are no guarantees — every game must be played, and every team must come out at their best or risk falling. (Case in point: The last time Gonzaga took down Stanford, as they did this season, they went on to open the conference season 0-2.)

Nine of the ten teams in the WCC finished non-conference play with winning records, with even ninth-place Loyola Marymount opening the season with two wins against Pac-12 opponents, the same number of Pac-12 wins as the first-place Zags. Perennial contender Saint Mary’s took then-No. 13 California to overtime at the beginning of December and most recently won the Tulane Classic to gain some needed momentum entering the season. With every team possessing superstar players or a high national ranking in some area — or both — this season will be one to watch from top to bottom. And with the vast majority of WCC games readily available to stream online, this is a great season to do that.

WCC opening games

No. 20 Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-1) vs. Loyola Marymount Lions (7-5)

When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA

How to watch:

What to watch for: Gonzaga’s depth has been a focal point of their success this season. In each of their four games this month, four different players have led the team in scoring. Besides that, three of the Bulldogs’ top five scorers have come off the bench in all or the majority of their games played this season, and seven players average 20 or more minutes per game. Look for Katie Campbell, Jill Townsend and Jenn Wirth to get quality minutes off the bench for the Zags.

San Diego Toreros (7-4) vs. San Francisco Dons (4-7)

When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: War Memorial Gymnasium, San Francisco, CA

How to watch:

What to watch for: The Toreros boast the WCC’s leader in field goal percentage in junior forward Patricia Brossmann, who shoots an impressive 56.7 percent and leads the team with 12.4 points per game. Brossmann is also the team’s leading rebounder at 7.5 per game, and recorded her third double-double of the season against San Jose State on Dec. 21.

Portland Pilots (8-3) vs. Pepperdine Waves (6-4)

When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Firestone Fieldhouse, Malibu, CA

How to watch:

What to watch for: Pepperdine senior forward Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a career 1,000-point scorer, threw down a school record 47 points in the Waves’ 113-97 victory over Sacramento State over Thanksgiving, cementing herself as the player that opponents should worry about in every game Pepperdine plays this season. Robinson-Bacote has yet to score below double figures this season and averages 18.7 points per game.

BYU Cougars (8-3) vs. Santa Clara Broncos (7-4)

When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Leavey Center, Santa Clara, CA

How to watch:

What to watch for: This game should be an absolute block party, with Cougars sophomore center Sarah Hamson, who leads the NCAA in career blocks per game (and, fittingly, is also on BYU’s volleyball team), facing off against Broncos redshirt junior forward Lauren Yearwood, who comes in at fourth place in the country in total blocked shots on the season. Santa Clara is also the WCC leader in blocks per game, with BYU coming in fourth.

Saint Mary’s Gaels (7-4) vs. Pacific Tigers (7-3)

When: Monday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Alex G. Spanos Center, Stockton, CA

How to watch:

What to watch for: Saint Mary’s comes into this game as the WCC leader in field goal percentage, making 48.2 percent of their shots per game — good for 11th in the country. That’s why the matchup with the Ameela Li-led Tigers will be so interesting, with the senior point guard a force of her own, averaging 14.9 points per game, a WCC-third 2.3 steals per game and a WCC-fourth 46.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Elsewhere in the WCC:

  • Saint Mary’s was led all the way through their Tulane Classic tournament win by senior forward Sydney Raggio, who was named tournament MVP and, fittingly, WCC Player of the Week.
  • Spokane, Washington loves all of its basketball. Gonzaga leads the NCAA in attendance ratio to capacity at 90.4 percent and currently sits at 13th in the nation in per-game attendance, welcoming 5,587 fans per game.
  • Not only are the WCC teams well-acquainted with one another, they’re also well-acquainted with the west coast itself, going 49-12 against non-Pac-12 west coast opponents during the non-conference season.

WCC full schedule and results