For the first time in school history, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have earned the nation's highest ranking and with a big advantage in the double-bye style West Coast Conference tournament. With a top-two team already guaranteed a spot in the conference semifinals, the winner of this tournament will likely come from one of the top two seeds.
All the craziness will get under way at the Orleans Arena on Wednesday, March 6, in Las Vegas before the championship finally tips on Monday, March 11. No other conference has a team as heavily favored to take the tournament crown as Gonzaga, ranked fourth by kenpom.com with the St. Mary's Gaels next closest at 19th overall. It could be a wild week in Vegas if someone catches fire and is able to battle the Zags with their hair on fire.
March 6-11, Wednesday to Monday
BYUtv in the first two rounds, ESPNU for the quarterfinals, ESPN2 for the semifinals, ESPN or ESPN2 for the championship
The Bulldogs ran the table in their conference schedule, keeping a zero in the loss column. Gonzaga's last loss came Jan. 19 against the Butler Bulldogs in Indianapolis and only four of their 16 conference wins were by single digits. The Zags are far and away the best team in the West Coast Conference, which they ran all over.
The Gaels earned the other double bye and have shown they're the only team that can really challenge the Zags in the conference over the past few years. Their only losses in conference play came against the top-ranked Zags and they made easy work of the rest of the conference schedule. Matthew Dellavedova is back after helping the Gaels to a WCC Tournament victory in overtime against Gonzaga last year before an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.
The Brigham Young Cougars. The Cougars lost two of their last three but had the unenviable task of playing Gonzaga and St. Mary's in two of those games. BYU struggled in its regular-season finale to get past the Loyola Marymount Lions but have played Gonzaga and St. Mary's closer than anyone else in the conference. BYU is ranked 71st by kenpom.com and, with only the Santa Clara Broncos ranked in the top 100 as well (87th), the options to challenge Gonzaga and St. Mary's are limited.
Players To Watch:
Kelly Olynyk, F, Gonzaga: The junior forward makes an astounding 66.8 percent of his shots, helping him to one of the best scoring averages in the conference at 17.7 points per contest and seven rebounds as well. The 7-footer can not only bang around in the low block better than just about anyone, but you can't just foul him to make him less effective. The Kamloops, British Columbia, native makes 78.3 percent of his free throws.
Matthew Dellavedova, G, St. Mary's: The senior guard will have one more opportunity to guide Randy Bennett's squad to a West Coast Conference tournament championship. The Aussie knocks down 16.5 points per game but isn't satisfied to just score by himself, dishing out 6.2 assists per contest as well. Like Olynyk, Dellavedova is a great free-throw shooter but he takes it to the next level, knocking down 88.1 percent of his free throws.
Brandon Davies, F, BYU: Davies is the best challenger for Olynyk when it comes to low post domination, trailing Olynyk in scoring at 17.5 points per game but ahead of him in rebounds per game at 7.8 per contest. If BYU finds itself in the tournament championship against Gonzaga, Davies' performance in the low post will be key to the Cougars coming out of that game a winner.