Three Most Valuable Players:
1. Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
If we are going to talk about to the most valuable players in the West Coast Conference, we have to start with conference player of the year, Kyle Collinsworth. During his senior season in Provo, Collinsworth averaged 15.2 points, 7.4 assists, and 8.4 rebounds per game. During his storied career, the 6-6 point guard became the BYU record holder for rebounds and assists. Collinsworth also owns the NCAA record for the most triples doubles in a career.
2. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Wiltjer has made a big impression on the Zags after transferring from Kentucky after his freshman year. Wiltjer led the conference in scoring, averaging 20.6 ppg. After starting center Paul Karnowski went down with an injury early in the season, Wiltjer became the focal point of the Gonzaga offense. The Portland, Oregon native was a huge reason why the Zags were able to win the WCC tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament for the 17th consecutive year.
3. Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
The three time WCC first-teamer has been the cornerstone for the Waves the last few years. Davis has been a key factor in resurrecting a program that won just 10 games prior to his arrival in Malibu. Over the course of his career, Pepperdine has increasingly improved, winning 63 games over four years. During the San Diego natives senior season, he averaged 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. On February 19th in a loss against San Francisco, Davis became Pepperdine’s all time leading scorer, breaking Dan Suttle’s 1983 record. The 6-6 forward finished his Pepperdine career with 1,778 career points.
Biggest Surprise: St Mary’s Regular Season Conference Championship
At the start of the year, few people believed St. Mary’s would win the WCC regular season championship. Gonzaga was voted number one in the media polls and were expected to run away with the title, per usual. The Gaels did not return a single starter from last year’s team and were picked to finish fourth behind Pepperdine, BYU, and Gonzaga. However, head coach Randy Bennett produced one of the best coaching jobs of his career, and his success became one biggest storylines of the college basketball season. Deservingly so, Bennett became the WCC Coach of the Year. The Gaels had a 15-3 in conference play and finished 27-5 overall, while being ranked in the Top 25 multiple weeks throughout the season. St. Mary’s became the #1 seed in the WCC tournament, but fell at the hands of Gonzaga in the championship. SMC’s success came from playing fundamentally sound basketball, which is a main reason they were one of the most efficient teams in the country. The Gaels ranked second in the country in offensive efficiency and fifth in scoring defense.
Biggest Disappointment: Paul Karnowski Injury
After being ranked 9th in the country in the AP preseason poll, many Gonzaga fans had hopes of making a Final Four run at the beginning the season. On paper, the Zags had a deep and intimidating frontcourt with Karnowski, Wiltjer, and 6-11 Domantas Sabonis. The Zags had a huge setback at the beginning of the season. Karnowski, the 7’1 center from Poland, had to sit out of a game because a bulged disc in his back. One month later, he would need surgery and was shut down for the rest of the season. The senior still may be eligible to return next year if he receives a medical redshirt from the NCAA. Although Sabonis stepped up in the wake of Karnowski absence, Gonzaga fans will still ponder how this season could have turned out if their Polish center would have stayed healthy. After the injury, head coach Mark Few had to play a slim 7-man rotation. Gonzaga’s lack of depth caused a lot of wear and tear on the team, and it showed during the second half of conference play.
Biggest Controversy: St Mary’s Getting Snubbed
As mentioned earlier, St. Mary’s had a fantastic season. However, they did not impressive the NCAA Tournament committee enough to get an at-large bid. Going into the conference tournament, the Gaels were ranked #24 in the country. After losing to Gonzaga in the championship game, they found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. Frankly, if you watch St.Mary’s play, there is no question that they are deserving of one of the 38 at-large spots. Despite having an RPI of 37, and a 27-5 record, and beating Gonzaga twice in the regular season, they were snubbed from the Big Dance. The NCAA Tournament selection committee pointed to the Gaels weak strength of schedule as the main reason they were kept out. They played just one game outside of California in the non-conference. This scheduling strategy will give a lesson to other mid-major teams in the future.
Best Short Video:
BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth breaking the NCAA career triple-double record.