2022-23 College Basketball Conference Preview: WCC Fantasy Outlook

2022-23 College Basketball Conference Preview: WCC Fantasy Outlook

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The WCC is coming off one of its most successful seasons, with three teams making the NCAA Tournament and two more receiving NIT berths. Gonzaga once again was the class of the conference, with its only hiccup coming at Saint Mary's in the regular season finale before getting revenge in Las Vegas to take down the WCC Conference Tournament. Things didn't go as planned during March Madness, however, as the top overall seed was bounced in the Sweet 16 by Arkansas. The Zags certainly have some unfinished business at their hands and will have to do it without Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard, who both left for the NBA. Fortunately for Gonzaga fans, Drew Timme withdrew from the NBA Draft to come back for his senior season, while Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther also followed suit and will be back in Spokane. Transfers Malachi Smith (Chattanooga) and Efton Reid (LSU) will help make the Bulldogs the clear favorite in the WCC and one of the top teams in the country yet again.

While it's likely just a race for second place, Saint Mary's will look to repeat after finishing runner-up in the regular season and conference tournament. The Gaels will have to do it without their two leading scorers from last season in Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass, who were instrumental in leading the team to a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament and being the only team to defeat Gonzaga in conference. Logan Johnson and Alex Ducas will look to

The WCC is coming off one of its most successful seasons, with three teams making the NCAA Tournament and two more receiving NIT berths. Gonzaga once again was the class of the conference, with its only hiccup coming at Saint Mary's in the regular season finale before getting revenge in Las Vegas to take down the WCC Conference Tournament. Things didn't go as planned during March Madness, however, as the top overall seed was bounced in the Sweet 16 by Arkansas. The Zags certainly have some unfinished business at their hands and will have to do it without Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard, who both left for the NBA. Fortunately for Gonzaga fans, Drew Timme withdrew from the NBA Draft to come back for his senior season, while Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther also followed suit and will be back in Spokane. Transfers Malachi Smith (Chattanooga) and Efton Reid (LSU) will help make the Bulldogs the clear favorite in the WCC and one of the top teams in the country yet again.

While it's likely just a race for second place, Saint Mary's will look to repeat after finishing runner-up in the regular season and conference tournament. The Gaels will have to do it without their two leading scorers from last season in Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass, who were instrumental in leading the team to a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament and being the only team to defeat Gonzaga in conference. Logan Johnson and Alex Ducas will look to lead the way in their fourth season with the program, as the Gaels will rely heavily on their defensive prowess to stay near the top of the WCC.

Looking to bounce back after a rough ending last season is BYU, a program that lost six of its last 11 games -- after starting 17-4 -- to miss the NCAA Tournament. Mark Pope will have a much different looking roster, as the Cougars will need someone to fill Alex Barcello's shoes, who was the face of the program the last two years and one of the best shooters in the country. Sophomore Fousseyni Traore is the most likely candidate to lead the way after standout freshman campaign, and the team will also look to Rudi Williams (14.7 ppg at Coastal Carolina last season) and Arkansas transfer and former top-75 recruit, Jaxson Robinson, to add to the offense. 

San Francisco will also have a different look this year after coach Todd Golden left for Florida, while Jamaree Bouyea is now in the NBA and Yauhen Massalski graduated. Washington State transfer Tyrell Roberts will help ease the transition to form a strong backcourt alongside senior Khalil Shabazz. The other main contender in the conference last season was Santa Clara, a program that accumulated 21 wins -- the most in Herb Sendek's six years at the helm for the Broncos. Duplicating that won't be an easy task, as they'll have to do it without NBA lottery pick Jalen Williams, as well as Josip Vrankic, who averaged 10+ points in all five of his seasons with the team. The Broncos will turn to Keshawn Justice, a fifth-year senior who earned WCC second-team honors and shot 42 percent from three last season.

One of the sleeper teams in the conference is Portland, as it returns all five starters from a team that went 7-7 in conference and had a marquee win at San Francisco. One of the youngest teams in the country last season, the Pilots will benefit from another year together and are led by Tyler Robertson (15.3 ppg) and Moses Wood (43 percent 3 PT). Meanwhile, Steve Lavin was brought in to spark some life into a San Diego program that hasn't finished over .500 in the conference since 2008. He wasted no time in the transfer portal, bringing in Jaiden Delaire from Stanford and Eric Williams from Oregon. With top-two scorers Marcellus Earlington and Jase Townsend returning, the Toreros are another team to keep an eye on.

Top Players

Overall: Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga

The rest of the league couldn't have been too pleased to see Timme withdraw from the NBA Draft to come back to Spokane for his senior season. The reigning Conference Player of the Year has been dominant the last two seasons, averaging 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds on 62 percent shooting. He's one of the most efficient finishers in the post in all of all college basketball.

Also considered: Malachi Smith (GONZ), Khalil Shabazz (SF), Julian Strawther (GONZ)

Scoring: Khalil Shabazz, G, San Francisco

Timme is also a strong candidate here, but for the sake of not being redundant, Shabazz is more than capable of leading the conference in scoring. Bouyea and Massalskis' departure means that someone will need to make up for the lost production, and Shabazz has never been shy about taking shots, as he had a 30.8 percent shot rate two seasons ago.

Also considered: Drew Timme (GONZ), Jaiden Delaire (USD), Keshawn Justice (SC)

Rebounding: Fousseyni Traore, F, BYU

Even though BYU added some size with 6-foot-11 transfer Noah Waterman, he's a stretch four, and Traore will still be relied upon for his exceptional rebounding. Despite being just 6-6, he averaged a whopping 8.6 boards in just 23.7 minutes per game, including 2.8 on the offensive end. He could easily post at least 15 double-doubles this season.

Also considered: Drew Timme (GONZ), Mitchell Saxen (SM), Jaden Bediako (SC)

Assists: Mike Mitchell, G, Pepperdine

Mitchell stepped in immediately as a freshman last season for the Waves, averaging 9.1 points and 4.9 assists per game while also shooting 40 percent from three. With Houston Mallette and Maxwell Lewis also emerging as viable scoring options as freshmen, Mitchell should have no problem finding guys to pass to in Lorenzo Romar's fast-paced offense. 

Also considered: Nolan Hickman (GONZ), Rudi Williams (BYU), Tyler Robertson (PORT)

Center: Efton Reid, Gonzaga

Reid comes over from LSU after one season in which he started all 34 games and was a key factor in the Tigers having one of the best defenses in the country. A five-star recruit in the 2021 class, the seven-footer will help fill the void left by Holmgren. He should be able to improve his efficiency as well, as the WCC lacks in proven centers. 

Also considered: Mitchell Saxen (SM), Jaden Bediako (SC)

Freshman: Aidan Mahaney, G, Saint Mary's

Mahaney was an important signing for Randy Bennett, as the four-star combo guard from the 2022 recruiting class is expected to step into a starting role immediately alongside Logan Johnson in the backcourt to fill the void left by Tommy Kuhse. He was one of the Gaels' leading scorers in their summer trip in Australia and should have a big impact in the WCC from the get-go.

Also considered: Braden Huff (GONZ), Jevon Porter (PEPP), Braeden Moore (BYU)

Sleepers

Julian Rishwain, San Francisco

Rishwain has been the Dons' sixth-man the last two seasons, but the 6-5 wing should finally get his chance to enter the starting lineup. He's been primarily used as a three-point specialist, where he connected on a whopping 44 percent of threes last season. He's not shy for the big occasion either, putting up 20 points and eight boards in the WCC semis against Gonzaga. 

Mitchell Saxen, Saint Mary's

Saxen has struggled to get much playing time, getting stuck behind Matthias Tass over the past two seasons, but he'll finally got his chance to start this year with Tass graduating. Saxen played a big role off the bench in the Gaels' win over Gonzaga last season, posting seven points and three blocks in 16 minutes. His 6-10, 240-pound frame will come in handy as the Gaels will continue to rely on their stout defense.

Spencer Johnson, BYU

Johnson has come off the bench for the Cougars the last two seasons, mainly being used as a three-points specialist, where he's shooting 39 percent for his career. He'll have the inside track for a starting spot over Trevin Knell, who is set to miss several months due to shoulder surgery. 

Also considered: Carlos Stewart (SCU), Yavuz Gultekin (USD), Sam Freeman (PAC)

Transfers

Malachi Smith, G, Gonzaga

Smith was one of the most sought-after players in the transfer portal this offseason after averaging 19.9 points and 6.7 rebounds for Chattanooga, where he nearly helped lead the team to a first-round upset over Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. He had impressive shooting splits of 52/40/83 and will be more than a capable replacement in the starting lineup for Nembhard.

Jaiden Delaire, F, San Diego

Lavin's best find this offseason was the grad transfer from Stanford, who was a double-digit scorer for the Cardinal the past two years. Delaire has been a volume shooter throughout his career but will need to work on his efficiency, as he shot just 43 percent last season. He'll help form a nice 1-2 punch alongside Marcellus Earlington.

Brandin Podziemski, G, Santa Clara

Podziemski was a four-star recruit in the class of 2021, receiving offers from the likes of Kentucky and Kansas before ultimately deciding on Illinois. The 6-5 shooting guard played sparingly as a freshman, as he was buried on the depth chart behind several quality guards that were going to make playing time hard to come by. He was the leading scorer in Santa Clara's three-game France trip this summer.

Also considered: Efton Reid (GONZ), Tyrell Roberts (SF), Rudi Williams (BYU)

Top-10 Players

  1. Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga
  2. Malachi Smith, G, Gonzaga
  3. Khalil Shabazz, G, San Francisco
  4. Julian Strawther, F, Gonzaga
  5. Rasir Bolton, G, Gonzaga
  6. Jaiden Delaire, F, San Diego
  7. Keshawn Justice, F, Santa Clara
  8. Tyler Robertson, F, Portland
  9. Fousseyni Traore, F, BYU
  10. Houston Mallette, G, Pepperdine

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with other 2022-23 rankings/projections tools displayed on the RotoWire site.

Projected Team Standings

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Saint Mary's
  3. BYU
  4. San Francisco
  5. Portland
  6. San Diego
  7. Santa Clara
  8. Pepperdine
  9. Loyola Marymount
  10. Pacific

Other College Basketball Resources:

Our Fantasy College Basketball Draft Kit is rolling out for 2022-23, so make sure you don't miss the following top features:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Pohle
Ryan Pohle is a DFS Product Specialist at RotoWire and has written for the site since 2020.
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