The No. 24 Gonzaga Bulldogs have been hands down the favorite to win the West Coast Conference since the preseason, which isn’t that much of a stretch when you look at their body of work from last season coupled with their returning roster.
However, Gonzaga has already dropped two games in their non-conference schedule to weaker opposition. The Kansas State Wildcats and the Dayton Flyers both defeated the Bulldogs, and yet Gonzaga is still ranked and expected to win the WCC.
In their WCC opener against the Santa Clara Broncos, Gonzaga struggled. Santa Clara looked like they may be able to pull off the upset behind Brandon Clark’s 22 points, but fell behind due to the scoring prowess of David Stockton and Kevin Pangos. The Broncos lost 74 – 60, but showed that Gonzaga isn’t infallible.
The WCC isn’t just Gonzaga’s to lose as it was last season. Every team in the WCC has at least seven wins, and the Saint Mary’s Gaels, the Pacific Tigers, the BYU Cougars and the Loyola Marymount Lions are a lot better than people give them credit. Every team in the WCC has an opportunity to win the conference and make it to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but Gonzaga is probably the only team with a chance to make it to the Big Dance without winning the conference.
The Bulldogs aren’t a bad team, despite some poor non-conference showings, and should still be expected to win the WCC. However, their early struggles against Santa Clara show that Gonzaga is going to have to work a lot harder than last season if they want to go to the NCAA Tournament.