William Mancebo/Getty Images

WCC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Leave a comment

I’m always torn in regards to the WCC tournament.

On the one hand, upsets in events like this are what makes March great. Everyone loves seeing that No. 9 seed knock off the league’s regular season champ en route to a surprise trip to the finals.

On the other hand, everyone in the WCC not named Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or BYU is just not that good, and that’s concerning and has been a concern for years.

Which is part of the reason that Gonzaga and BYU would consider leaving the conference for the Mountain West, a league with more basketball pedigree. The question that would be most interesting for me is whether or not that would be a good thing for the West Coast Conference as a whole. On the one hand, losing one of college basketball’s top 15 programs is going to hurt. But on the other hand, it’s not possible for anyone else to win in that league. It’s been more than a decade since a head coach has left the WCC without getting fired or resigning. Any job you can get in that conference is a dead-end job because Mark Few, Dave Rose and Randy Bennett aren’t, or haven’t, left.

If the programs at the bottom of the league could start hiring better coaches because coaches know they’d have a chance to use that job as a stepping stone, it would, in theory, create a space for another Saint Mary’s to be born.

Whatever the case is, that’s something that will be worth monitoring in the coming months and years.


Can you call anyone other than Gonzaga a favorite for anything in the WCC? At this point, I’m not sure that you can.

I have a take on Gonzaga that I haven’t had a chance to eschew anywhere else, so I’m going to use this space to talk about it: The success that the Zags have had this season, where they are a top ten team on KenPom, is a more telling indicator of the strength of that program than getting to the Final Four a season ago was.

Anyone with any basketball sense knew that Gonzaga was good enough to be a Final Four team before the actually became a Final Four team. Weird things happen in a one-game, knockout tournament — things like blowing 17 point leads to UCLA or 14 point leads to Wichita State — which is why I think earning a No. 1 seed is more of a sign of program strength than getting to the Final Four. VCU, LSU, George Mason. They’ve all been to a Final Four since Gonzaga became Gonzaga. Before last season, which program would you say was better?

But the Zags lost so much off of last year’s team. Not only did they lose a pair of key seniors, but both Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss left earlier than expected. And even with all those departures, Gonzaga is still a top ten team thanks to the fact that they had talents like Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell biding their time.

Personally, I didn’t need any convincing, but if you did, you shouldn’t anymore.


The only two teams that I think have a real shot at picking off Gonzaga are Saint Mary’s and BYU. We all know that the Gaels are good at this point, and they probably have the best player in the league on their roster in Jock Landale. But BYU is really talented as well. Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs have made names for themselves this year, and the Cougars should be considered in the mix to win this thing.


Saint Mary’s, and it’s not really all that close. The Gaels have played just two Quadrant 1 games, and both of them were Gonzaga. They beat the Zags on the road and then got smoked by them in Moraga. They’ve only played three more Quadrant 2 games, and they have two Quadrant 3 losses. The conversation will not be that cut and dry when the Selection Committee convenes next week, but the Gaels can certainly not afford a bad loss before the final.


Before Lamont Smith’s arrest and subsequent suspension, I would have said San Diego. Now, I think the teams to keep an eye on are Pacific and San Francisco. USF is the only team to pick off either Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s this season, while Damon Stoudamire has Pacific playing really well given everything that is going on within that program.


Jock Landale of Saint Mary’s is the best player in the conference, but the best NBA prospect could very well be Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga. He’s a 6-foot-9 Beninese-Japanese forward with all the physical tools you could ask for and a sense for the game that is picking up as the season moves along. He’s also the guy that Saint Mary’s has proven to have no idea how to guard.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

COACH OF THE YEAR: Mark Few, Gonzaga


  • Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s
  • Elijah Bryant, BYU
  • Jonathan Williams III, Gonzaga
  • Killian Tillie, Gonzaga
  • Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s


  • Josh Perkins, Gonzaga
  • Frankie Ferrari, San Francisco
  • K.J. Feagin, Santa Clara
  • Isaiah Pineiro, San Diego
  • Yoeli Childs, BYU

Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.

And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.

For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.

Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.

With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.

That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.

On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time, but the game was won during that five-minute surge when West Virginia just didn’t have an answer.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.

It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:

A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.

He dunked on Sagaba Konate:

I am having way too much fun at this game.

No. 1 Kansas into Elite Eight with win over No. 5 Clemson

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

OMAHA, Neb. — Once Kansas found its stride, Clemson had little chance of keeping pace – even after a late stumble.

The No. 1 Jayhawks ran away from the No. 5 Tigers with a second-half flurry that powered them to a 80-76 victory Friday night at CenturyLink Center to put them in the Elite Eight on Sunday against either Duke or Syracuse.

Kansas moves on to the Midwest Region final on the back of a second-half offense that Clemson had nearly no success in slowing until the final minutes, when the Tigers turned a 20-point laugher into  a six-point nail-biter.

Malik Newman paced Kansas with 17 points while Devonte Graham 16 and Udoka Azubuike 14 and 11 rebounds.

Clemson got 31 points from senior Gabe DeVoe, but there just wasn’t enough help around him for the Tigers to keep things competitive after the Jayhawks hit them with three-consecutive 3s in the opening minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point lead.

Clemson was already hanging on by a threat after it shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and committed eight turnovers. DeVoe’s 12 first-half points kept the Tigers afloat, but they never enjoyed a lead before halftime.

The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had five players  score at least six points in the first half, including 10 from Azubuike, Their usual strengths – 3-point shooting (4 of 13) and Devonte Graham (1 of 7) – were absent in the first half, but Clemson was unable to take advantage as Kansas continued to get quality looks inside and stops on defense.

The Jayhawks previously played Syracuse in December, beating the Orange by 16 on a neutral floor in Miami. They haven’t faced the Blue Devils, though they have already shared a building with them once this year in the Champion’s Classic. Kansas topped Kentucky, 65-61, while Duke defeated Michigan State, 88-81, that November night in Chicago.

VIDEO: Mikal Bridges tries to dunk on Sagaba Konate, gets denied

Screengrab via @CBSSports
Leave a comment

There really is nothing better in this world than seeing someone who is typically a great dunker take flight to try and dunk on Sagaba Konate of West Virginia, because it never, EVER ends well for the dunker.

See: Bridges, Mikal:

Auburn AD Greene gives Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Speaking publicly for the first time about head coach Bruce Pearl, new Auburn athletic director gave his embattled head coach a vote of confidence.

Greene was on an in-house podcast produced with the voice of Auburn sports, and was asked about Pearl’s standing in a pod that lasted less than five minutes and felt more like a press release than anything else.

“He’s been a tremendous blessing for the Auburn family,” Greene said. “The FBI investigation is a long process. We’re going through that process to make sure that we, as a university, are doing what it is that we’re supposed to do to comply. Coach Pearl has been excellent in that regard and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we continue to do the very best to support he, his staff and the student athletes of Auburn University.”

This is the first time since former assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested that a member of the Auburn athletic department had spoken so positively about Pearl. In the fall, Auburn’s president Steven Leath lamented Pearl’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, but just last week released a statement saying Pearl is “working with university officials as part of our due diligence.” Pearl said after his team’s 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA tournament that he would like to return.

There has been speculation that Pearl’s job was in jeopardy ever since Auburn was mixed up in the FBI’s complaint. Two players were forced to sit out this entire season after the FBI alleged they had received money funneled through Person from a runner for an agent and a financial advisor.

“One of the challenges that we have facing the industry is college basketball,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we work incredibly hard to clean up the game, to make it as pure as it can possibly be so that our student-athletes can enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience. one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the state of college basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m a little bit disappointed that auburn is involved in that, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done.”