We've officially reached that awkward point in the college hoops offseason where the dust has mostly settled from all the transfer/coaching carousel madness, but it's still far too early to start any serious previewing of the 2014-15 season.
In keeping with the spirit of the season, it's time to begin our series of brief rundowns of what each conference looks like after all the moving and shaking that has happened since Connecticut cut down the nets in Dallas. We kicked things off with the Mountain West Conference last week, and continue today with a West Coast Conference looking to shake the label of being little more than "Gonzaga's league."
THREE BIGGEST STORYLINES
1. Can Gonzaga break through nationally?
There's no question that the Zags once again appear to be the class of the West Coast Conference, but there are bigger questions surrounding their status on the national scene.
Gonzaga has been to 16 straight NCAA Tournaments and existed as the poster boys for mid-major basketball for years now. But despite all their lofty in-season rankings and national seeds, the Bulldogs have experienced the second weekend of the big dance just once in the past six seasons, and just twice since 2002. The consistency has been remarkable, but there has to be a sense in the Spokane area that at least a few of these teams should have notched more than one tourney win.
This could be the year that changes, as Mark Few returns the dynamic backcourt duo of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, and brings in a top 20 recruiting class to go along with high-profile transfers Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) and Byron Wesley (USC). The Zags will learn where they stand early on, as they stare down a non-conference slate that includes road trips to UCLA and Arizona, as well as a tilt with what could be a nationally-ranked SMU squad during the 24-hour tip-off marathon.
2. New blood at Loyola Marymount
Max Good was one of the most predictable firings of March, as the Lions had morphed into perennial also-rans since Good took over after Bill Bayno resigned in 2009. Injuries played a large part in those abysmal records, but not large enough to justify giving Good more time.
In is former Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap, who also previously served as an assistant at Arizona, Oregon and St. John's. He'll be facing a taller task than any other coach in the league, as not only is LMU losing star Anthony Ireland to graduation, but the Lions have seen six players opt to transfer out of the program since the end of the season, including WCC All-Freshmen honoree Gabe Levin.
Things are likely to get better for LMU under Dunlap, but you're probably not going to be able to see it this season.
3. Matt Carlino leaves BYU
The score-first guard frustrated Cougar fans to no end at times last season, but he also had the ability to drop 30 on any given night. Now that risk/reward entity is headed to Marquette, and Dave Rose will have to figure out how to replace his 13.7 points and 4.3 assists per game.
The bigger loss for Rose might be gritty post man Eric Mika, who is gone for two years on his LDS mission. Without Mika, BYU is likely to be even more guard-centric than they were a season ago, which might be okay considering they have a player in Tyler Haws who could easily wind up leading the nation in scoring. The addition of Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer will be even more crucial if Kyle Collingsworth is unable to fully recover from the ACL tear he suffered during the WCC Tournament.
Jamal Aytes (UNLV)
Kyle Davis (Utah State)
Chase Fischer (Wake Forest)
Byron Wesley (USC)
Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky)
Steven Haney (Central Florida)
A.J. Lapray (Oregon)
Joe Rahon (Boston College)
Desmond Simmons (Washington)
Aaron Bright (Stanford)
Matt Carlino (Marquette)
Ben Dickinson (UNC Greensboro)
Gabe Levin (Marquette)
C.J. Blackwell (Kentucky Wesleyan)
Nino Jackson (Indian Hills Community College)
Nick Stover (South Alabama)
Spencer Llewellyn (San Francisco State)
Malcolm Brooks (Cal State Fullerton)
Jeff Van Dyke
Cody Doolin (UNLV)
Avry Holmes (Clemson)
Julian Clarke (Toronto)
MEANINGLESS SUMMER POWER RANKINGS WITH ONE SENTENCE TWITTER-ESQUE SUMMARIES
1. Gonzaga - You already knew this.
2. BYU - The losses of Mika and Carlino are huge, but Tyler Haws would play and score big for any team in the country.
3. San Francisco - Rex Walters has a bunch to work with, even with Avry Holmes' unexpected transfer.
4. Saint Mary's - The Gaels need to do something before their hard-earned reputation of being Gonzaga-esque on the national scene starts to disappear.
5. Portland - No one in the league has more experience than the Pilots, who return the core of their 2013-14 team, including leading scorer Kevin Bailey.
6. Pepperdine - Stacy Davis might be the best forward in the conference.
7. Santa Clara - The team should center around sophomore Jared Brownridge, who came out of virtually nowhere to average 17.2 ppg and earn WCC Newcomer of the Year honors last season.
8. San Diego - Expect more of the same from the Toreros, who finished with a winning record overall but failed to do much damage in the conference last season.
9. Pacific - Life in the WCC should again be unkind to the Tigers, who have a brutal lack of experience on their roster.
10. Loyola Marymount - Like we said earlier, progress is going to be hard to see in year one of the Dunlap era.