Perennial powerhouse Gonzaga was picked Thursday to win the West Coast Conference men's basketball title by a vote of the league's coaches.

The Bulldogs, undefeated in the WCC last year and 32-3 overall, collected eight first-place votes.

The Bulldogs are the pick despite losing two players to the NBA off a team that reached new heights under coach Mark Few.

"When we hit that No. 1 ranking and earned that No. 1 (NCAA tournament) seed, which I felt was even harder, it was a little overwhelming when it happened," Few said at WCC's tip-off event in El Segundo. "I was surprised what a big deal it was."

Saint Mary's was tabbed third behind BYU and earned one first-place vote from the coaches.

USF was picked fourth, conference newcomer Pacific was seventh and Santa Clara, minus three graduated 1,000-point scorers, was eighth.

The coaches' 10-player preseason all-WCC team included four Bay Area selections: guard Stephen Holt and center Brad Waldow of Saint Mary's and forward Cole Dickerson and guard Cody Doolin of USF.

  • Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said no single player will replace departed Australian senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova, the school's career scoring and assists leader.

    "It's by committee," Bennett said. "We'll put Stephen Holt at point guard and he'll be fine. Matt goes way beyond a point guard with leadership, toughness, belief.

    "There are so many things he left to our orogram and I think we'll benefit from that. Our seniors saw that."

  • Bennett expects USC transfer Garrett Jackson, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, to have an immediate impact. Junior college arrival Kerry Carter has played "surprisingly well" in practice and 6-foot-9 Dane Pineau -- the Gaels' latest Aussie import -- has impressed Bennett as much as anyone on the roster.

    Freshman forward Calvin Hermanson, the Oregon state player of the year, has been slowed early in practice by an ankle sprain.

  • Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating moves forward without three departed 1,000-point scorers, including guard Kevin Foster, the all-time Bay Area Division I scoring leader.

    Asked about this team's identity, Keating acknowledged, "We're still carving it out a little bit."

    The club's top returning scorer is senior guard Evan Roquemore, who averaged 12.0 points and 5.2 assists last season. Keating called junior power forward Yannick Atanga, the league's top rebounder in conference games, "a nice cornerstone."

    The Broncos features four true freshmen, including 6-9, 260-pounder Emmanuel Ndamanya, a native of Nigeria who played last season at Serra High in Gardena.

    "I like our freshmen," Keating said. "Their talent is undeniable, but they're freshmen."

  • Atanga played last summer with the national team from his native Cameroon at a four-nation "friendly" tournament in China.

    "It was definitely a great experience for me," Atanga said. "I played against professional athletes, guys who have done it before me. It was really good to go against them every day.

    "My goal was to learn from them, come back here and use it to have a good college career."

  • Pacific, a charter member of the WCC in 1952-53 when it was called the California Basketball Association, makes return after a four-decade absence.

    The Tigers aren't entirely unfamiliar with WCC competition. A year ago, UOP split two nonconference games with Saint Mary's, beat USF and lost to Gonzaga and Santa Clara.