The West Coast Conference has two quality teams in Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, variously solid teams in BYU and Pepperdine and then, after that, not a whole lot. It's a top-heavy league, and that puts the Gaels and Zags on a likely collision course in this week's WCC Tournament in Nevada.
Either BYU or Pepperdine could reasonably interrupt the Gonzaga-Saint Mary's collision course, but if anybody else did, it would come as a major surprise. Nobody else in the WCC finished within so few as six games of the two top teams at 15-3 in the league. Gonzaga is 9-2 in its last 11 games, while Saint Mary's is 10-2 in its last 12. These teams are better than the competition and avoid any real threats until at least the semis.
The stakes here are high. The WCC shapes up as one-bid conference for the NCAA Tournament, with an outside chance that both Gonzaga and Saint Mary's get in. The only way to avoid that uncertainty is to win the league.
The 10-team league has a nine-team tournament this year, with Pacific sitting out under a self-imposed postseason ban. The two lowest seeds meet in a play-in to join the rest of the teams in a predetermined quarterfinal round. From there, it's a straight-on, single-elimination playoff. All games are played just beyond the Las Vegas Strip, at Orleans Arena.
1. Saint Mary's
5. San Francisco
6. Santa Clara
8. Loyola Marymount
9. San Diego
A full printable bracket is here.
Schedule and Results (all times Eastern)
Friday, March 4 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 8 Loyola Marymount 64, No. 9 San Diego 61
Saturday, March 5 (Quarterfinals)
Game 2: No. 3 BYU 72, No. 6 Santa Clara 60
Game 3: No. 4 Pepperdine 90, No. 5 San Francisco 86
Game 4: No. 1 Saint Mary's 60, No. 8 Loyola Marymount 48
Game 5: No. 2 Gonzaga 92, No. 7 Portland 67
Monday, March 7 (Semifinals)
Game 6: No. 1 Saint Mary's 81, No. 4 Pepperdine 66
Game 7: No. 2 Gonzaga 88, No. 3 BYU 84
Tuesday, March 8 (Championship)
Game 8: No. 2 Gonzaga 85, No. 1 Saint Mary's 75
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March Madness: From conference tournaments to a national champ