Nov. 30, 2009
SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- After one of its most impressive men's basketball weeks in recent memory, the West Coast Conference landed two teams in the national polls this week. One team is no stranger to the top 25. The other has waited 50 years to get back there.
Gonzaga entered the top 25 for the first time this season after winning the Maui Invitational Championship with three wins over three BCS opponents in as many days. The Bulldogs, who are 16th in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 17th in the Associated Press Poll, have now been nationally ranked every year since 2001-02. At the Maui Invitational, the Bulldogs knocked off Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59, OT) as Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray shared Tournament MVP honors.
The Pilots are ranked 25th in this week's Associated Press Poll, which is their first AP national ranking since they were No. 19 in the February 24, 1959 poll. The 1958-59 season was the Pilots' first at the Division I level. Portland achieved this week's ranking with a pair of impressive national-television victories at the 76 Classic in Anaheim. The Pilots routed UCLA 74-47 on Thursday and upset No. T16/22 Minnesota 64-59 on Friday before falling to #8/8 West Virginia 84-66 in Sunday's championship game.
"We are very pleased with the performance of our men's basketball programs so far in the pre-conference season," said WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich. "There is obviously a lot of basketball yet to be played, but to compete as we have against the top programs in the nation is a good sign. I think the fact that we have two ranked teams this early in the season indicates the respect for WCC basketball nationally."
Monday's rankings mark the third consecutive year that the West Coast Conference has had two teams ranked among the Associated Press Top 25 on the same week. Saint Mary's and Gonzaga were both among the top 25 on December 11, 2007 (Gonzaga #19 & Saint Mary's #24) and January 27, 2009 (Gonzaga #20 & Saint Mary's #22).
The WCC is coming off an impressive week that included two tournament titles (Gonzaga @ Maui Invitational and Pepperdine @ World Vision Challenge), two tournament runner-up finishes (Portland @ 76 Classic and San Diego @ Great Alaska Shootout) and six victories over BCS teams in a five-day span (Colorado, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Oklahoma, UCLA and Wisconsin). Overall, the West Coast Conference is 9-6 against BCS opposition this season, including a 6-3 record last week. Other notable wins include San Diego defeating Stanford, Portland beating Oregon, and Loyola Marymount taking down USC earlier in the season.