The West Coast Conference Tournament is kicking off this weekend. If the regular season was any indication, the WCC Tournament should be one of the most interesting conference tourneys this March. The WCC will be a 9-team tourney due to Pacific’s self-emposed postseason ban. The last few years the WCC has been fairly predictable in recent years. In the last two years, the top two seeds have played in the tournament championship game. The last two years, BYU has faced Gonzaga in the title game with Gonzaga winning the title both times.
Gonzaga was projected to win the conference this year. However, inconsistent backcourt play and a key injury to starting center Paul Karnowski has led to a sub-par season in the eyes of Bulldog fans. Despite all this Gonzaga, still manage to finish as cochampions of the WCC with Saint Mary’s. This success is due to the play of their frontcourt, led by WCC first-team All-Conference selections Kyle Wiltjer (20.8 ppg) and Domantas Sabonis (17.2 ppg, 11.9 rpg). The two big men have carried the Zags during conference play. Gonzaga is going to need WCC All-Freshman pick Josh Perkins to continue his steady play in order to stabilize the backcourt.
Saint Mary’s has been one of the most surprising stories of the college basketball season. The Gaels are ranked #24 in the country, holding an impressive 25-4 overall record, and 15-3 in WCC play. They are ranked #2 in the country in offensive efficiency and 5th in scoring defense. Saint Mary’s swept Gonzaga this year for the first time in 21 years. However, they were swept by the #4 seed Pepperdine, a team that they are expected to play in the quarterfinals.
BYU got off to a slow start this season, but the Cougars ramped it up in conference play, going 13-5 and finishing the regular season 22-9 overall. The Cougars beat each of the top two seeds at least once this season, including a road win in Spokane against Gonzaga. BYU has a one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country, led by Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer. Fischer is the Cougars leading scorer averaging 18.1 points per game. Collinsworth is one of the best decorated guards in BYU history, and is arguably one of the best players in the country. Collinsworth averages nearly a triple-double every game with 15.2 pts, 8.3 rebounds, and 7.5 assists.
The Pepperdine Waves are the dark horse in this tournament. The Waves have one of the most talented rosters in school history, but the Waves have had a roller coaster season, going 10-8 in conference play and finishing the season with a modest 17-12 record. This Waves team has proven it can play good enough to win the tournament, but inconsistency has plagued them throughout the year. If the Waves team that swept Saint Mary’s, beat BYU, and the team that took the Zags down to the wire shows up; the Waves can shake up the WCC tournament. However, if the Waves team that lost to San Francisco, Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount and Portland (twice) makes an appearance, they won’t be in Vegas long enough to make any noise. Here is analytical prediction of the WCC tournament provided by team rankings:
The WCC tournament schedule is as follows: the first round kicks off tonight at 7 PST with a matchup of the bottom two seeds, #8 Loyola Marymount (13-16, 6-12) and #9 San Diego (9-20, 4-14). The winner of that game will move on to the quarterfinals to play top seed Saint Mary’s at 7pm PST Saturday. The other quarterfinals games on Saturday are #3 seed BYU against #6 seed Santa Clara (11-19, 7-11) at 1 PM PST. Then #4 seed Pepperdine battles #5 seed San Francisco (15-14, 8-10) at 4pm PST. Then the matchup between #2 seed Gonzaga and #7 seed Portland (12-19, 6-12) will wrap up the night. The semifinals will be played on Monday, and the championship will be played on Tuesday. The winner of the tournament will win an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.