WCC Tournament: Contenders and Predictions

The West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament begins Friday in Las Vegas and will conclude on Tuesday. Gonzaga is guaranteed a seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless of their tournament outcome. However, the rest of the WCC will be competing hard to earn the coveted automatic seed for the big dance. Here is a look at the likely contenders for the WCC Tournament crown.

Gonzaga (29-1, 17-1)

Even if the Bulldogs win the tournament, chances of earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament is out of their hands. BYU crashed the party by shocking Gonzaga at home to prevent an undefeated season. Despite an impressive resume with wins over Florida, Arizona, and Iowa State, the WCC does no favors with half the teams with records below .500. Gonzaga did not face any competition except for St. Mary’s in the WCC before suffering a stunning defeat at home.

Gonzaga will look to avenge the loss against BYU should the two teams meet in the tournament. As of now, Oregon has the inside track of earning the top seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament. Only a hiccup by the Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament could swing the odds back for the Bulldogs. For now, head coach Mark Few needs to focus his team on the present.

Nigel Williams-Goss leads Gonzaga in points per game (16.3) and assists per game (4.8). Gonzaga has four more players all scoring double-digits per game which have made defense difficult for opponents.

Gonzaga will play the winner of the first-round matchup between Pepperdine and Pacific on Saturday.

St. Mary’s (26-3, 16-2)

Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY

Season’s past has seen the Gaels get snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament after falling short in the WCC Tournament. St. Mary’s has successfully beaten Gonzaga in previous WCC tournaments to earn the automatic berth. The Gaels may need to make the championship game as their resume lacks quality wins with the lone exception of beating Stanford on the road.

The Gaels have a talented roster under head coach Randy Bennett. Jock Landale leads the team in points and rebounds and will look to be the driving force for the Gaels in the tournament. For St. Mary’s to prevail, a balanced attack and strong defense is needed for a full 40 minutes.

St. Mary’s will play the winner of San Diego and Portland on Saturday.

BYU (21-10, 12-6)

After spoiling Gonzaga’s perfect season with a 79-71 win on the road, BYU could pull off another upset in the tournament. BYU was never out of the contest at Gonzaga and struck late to walk away winners. Dave Rose has his squad peaking at the right moment which could serve BYU well in the tournament.

Eric Mika has been BYU’s offensive machine averaging 20.2 points per game. He has not been the only force as he has a strong supporting cast in teammates TJ Haws, Nick Emery, and Elijah Bryant. BYU may likely miss the NCAA Tournament should the team not win the WCC Tournament.

BYU opens play Saturday against Loyola Marymount

Prediction: Gonzaga over St. Mary’s in the championship game.

The Bulldogs will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after missing out on a perfect season. No doubt, Gonzaga wants the top seed in the NCAA Tournament but will need help from the outside. For a top seed to occur, Gonzaga will have to win the conference championship game soundly. Should Oregon run the table and win their conference tournament, the selection committee will award the Ducks with the top seed in the West Region.

St. Mary’s and BYU both has great seasons and should be selected for the big dance regardless where both finish in the WCC Tournament. Unfortunately, the strength of schedule is not on their side as both lack quality wins throughout the season. Both can compete, but the selection committee could ultimately pass on the two.

Expect spirited battles throughout the WCC Tournament as every team will give their all. In the end, the WCC will be represented in the NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, and BYU.

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