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Title Hopes Come in Waves

WEST COAST CONFERENCE MEN'S BASKETBALL PREVIEW

November 20, 2002|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

Outlook: Under the new WCC tournament format, teams that finish third and fourth in the regular season get first-round byes. That should be a goal for the Toreros, who have the advantage of playing host to the tournament and are always dangerous at home.

SAN FRANCISCO

Coach: Phil Mathews.

2001-02 record: 13-15, 8-6.

Top players: Forward Darrell Tucker, a 6-9, 245-pound senior, could be the best player in the conference. A scoring threat, he averaged 18.9 points and a WCC-best 10.1 rebounds last season. Two other starters -- senior guard Shamell Stallworth and junior swing player John Cox -- round out San Francisco's returning nucleus. Former St. Mary's point guard Jovan Harris figures to contribute.

Outlook: San Francisco appears to have the best shot of crashing an anticipated Gonzaga-Pepperdine party at the top of WCC standings. The Dons have a solid starting five -- but questionable depth.

SANTA CLARA

Coach: Dick Davey.

2001-02 record: 13-15, 8-6.

Top players: The Broncos are led by junior Kyle Bailey, who is among the top point guards in the conference. The other returning starter is sophomore forward Jordan Legge, who has been slowed by a bulging disk.

Outlook: Santa Clara ended last season with a surprising overtime loss to St. Mary's in the first round of the WCC tournament. Look for the Broncos, who haven't had a losing conference record under Davey in eight seasons, to improve on that finish.

ST. MARY'S

Coach: Randy Bennett.

2001-02 record: 9-20, 3-11.

Top players: Junior forward Chase Poole averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds last season. The Gaels will need the 6-8 Poole to play at a high level because guard Paul Marigney, the team's leading scorer, is expected to redshirt because he has not sufficiently recovered from surgery for a torn knee ligament.

Outlook: In its first season under Bennett, a former Pepperdine assistant, St. Mary's ended a 23-game losing streak -- the longest in the nation at the time -- and won its first WCC tournament game since 1999.

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