After making it all the way to its regular-season finale undefeated, Gonzaga has, rightfully, been the storyline in the WCC this season, but it should be noted that the ‘Zags only cleared St. Mary’s for the regular season title by a single game. Gonzaga will probably need to beat the Gaels for a third time, which would come in the title game of the tournament, to stay in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
When: March 2-7
Where: Orleans Arena; Las Vegas, NV
Final: Monday, March 7, 9 pm
It looked as though the ‘Zags would be using this tournament to match Kentucky and Wichita State as the two most recent programs to make the NCAA tournament without a blemish, but instead they’ll need it to keep a top seed, most notably in the West region, which would allow them to stay in the Pacific time zone all the way through the Final Four. They should cruise into the WCC finals where either St. Mary’s or BYU should be waiting with an attempt to make things interesting.
Should Gonzaga be able to make it out of Vegas unscathed, it should be enough for the Bulldogs to hold on to a top seed. Their problem, though, is they’ll only be able to record one quality win over their three games while their competition in the Pac-12 can log a multiple resume-boosting victories; and frankly, the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Oregon may already have better overall profiles. If the ‘Zags do get upset, they’ll likely fall out of contention for a No. 1, and even if they win, if, say, UCLA wins the Pac-12 tournament and beats Oregon and Arizona to do it, the Zags may still end up on the wrong side of the No. 1 line.
And if they lose?: St. Mary’s
The Gaels’ strong season has been totally eaten up by Gonzaga’s undefeated run and the WCC’s relative weakness, but make no mistake, this team is legit. They’ve bulldozed their way through the conference with just one of their wins coming by single digits. Jock Landale, currently second in KenPom’s player of the year rankings, is averaging 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the floor. The Gaels are a real threat to Gonzaga.
- BYU: The Cougars are longshots here, but by virtue of handing Gonzaga its lone L, they’ve got to be at least taken seriously by St. Mary’s and the Bulldogs.
The Bubble Dwellers: One
- BYU: It’ll probably take a Herculean effort and probably a tournament title to get the Cougars in with an RPI hovering around 70 heading in. A win against St. Mary’s in the semis might move the needle, but in all likelihood, the Cougars need the automatic bid.
WCC Player of the Year: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
The Washington transfer has been as good as Gonzaga could have hoped, putting up career numbers nearly across the board during a 29-game winning streak. He’s shooting 50/36/90 while averaging 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
WCC Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga
There’s no other option here as Few could very well be the national coach of the year after guiding Gonzaga to wins in its first 29 games of the season.
- Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga (POY)
- Jock Landale, St. Mary’s: He’s put up monster numbers for a real contender
- Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga: Returned from a back injury to have another big season in Spokane.
- Erik Mika, BYU: After a two-year mission absence, Mike was second in the league in scoring (20.2) and first in rebounding (9.4)
- Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara: Shot 37 percent from 3-point range while hoisting over eight shots from distance per game
Second Team All-WCC:
- Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga
- TJ Haws, BYU
- Zach Collins, Gonzaga
- Lamond Murray, Pepperdine
- Joe Rahon, St. Mary’s
Defining moment of the season:
CBT Prediction: Gonzaga