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West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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Gonzaga looks to complete the double in Las Vegas (AP Photo)

For the 14th time in the last 15 seasons No. 7 Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference regular season title, winning 17 straight before falling to BYU in the regular season finale for both. And that result may have changed the tenor of this year’s WCC tournament, with the Cougars now in possession of the marquee victory their NCAA tournament resume lacked. Mark Few’s Bulldogs, led by senior guard Kevin Pangos, don’t lack for options on the perimeter or in the post and they could be a threat to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.

While those talents make Gonzaga the favorites in Las Vegas, it also makes them an attractive target for the rest of the WCC. BYU and Saint Mary’s finished tied for second, and both teams have all-conference caliber options. The Cougars are led by guards Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, and Saint Mary’s has senior forward Brad Waldow to call upon in the post. But even with the talent that both teams have, this will not be a three-team tournament.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

Pepperdine, led by junior forward Stacy Davis, once again exceeded preseason expectations under head coach Marty Wilson. The Waves won ten conference games, and while teams such as San Diego, Portland and Santa Clara all finished below .500 they have the ability to pull off a surprise or two in Las Vegas. That could make things tricky for the teams expected to get to Monday’s semifinals, but is it enough to provide a surprise champion?

That won’t be the expectation, with the most important question for the WCC being how many NCAA tournament bids will the conference receive. With Gonzaga being the only lock to hear its name called Selection Sunday the best way to remove any doubt is to win the automatic bid. And that should make for a fun five days at Orleans Arena.

MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

The Bracket

source:   When: March 5-10 (no games Sunday, March 8)

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 10, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: Gonzaga

The Bulldogs are the clear favorites in Las Vegas thanks to their dominance throughout WCC play. In addition to Pangos and Wiltjer, Mark Few can call upon a host of experienced options including WCC Defensive Player of the Year Gary Bell Jr., wing Byron Wesley and bigs Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis. And with players such as Kyle Dranginis and Eric McClellan serving as reserves, the Bulldogs have depth as well. Skilled offensively and solid defensively, Gonzaga can use this weekend as a springboard into the NCAA tournament.

And if they lose?: BYU

The Cougars have little trouble putting points on the board, as they averaged 81.1 points per game and shot 46.4 percent from the field in conference games. Haws and Collinsworth lead the way for BYU, with Chase Fischer and Anson Winder both averaging at least 13 points per contest as well. BYU arrives in Las Vegas having won six straight games, and a key during the stretch has been senior guard Skyler Halford. Scoring 8.7 points per game on the season, Halford is averaging 14.8 ppg during this current win streak. If that continues, and BYU can string together stops on the other end, they’re a threat to win the tournament.

Other Contenders

  • Saint Mary’s: Brad Waldow leads the way for Randy Bennett’s team, and they’re experienced on the perimeter thanks to the presence of players such as seniors Aaron Bright and Kerry Carter. The Gaels ranked second in the WCC in both field goal and three-point percentage in league games, and they were tops in the WCC in defensive rebounding percentage. If Garrett Jackson can build on his final two games of the regular season (19.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg), that would undoubtedly help the Gaels.
  • Pepperdine: Marty Wilson’s Waves won ten conference games thanks in large part to their defense, as they were second in the WCC in field goal percentage defense and first in three-point percentage defense. Forwards Stacy Davis and Jett Raines lead the way offensively, and guards Jeremy Major and freshman Shawn Olden are solid as well. The key for Pepperdine: rebounding, as they ranked ninth in the WCC in defensive rebounding percentage in conference games (65.9%).

Sleeper: San Francisco

Unlike the Pilots, Rex Walters’ team enters the tournament having won four of its last five games. Of course three of those wins came against teams seeded seventh (Santa Clara), ninth (Pacific) and tenth (Loyola Marymount), with Pepperdine being the other. Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen lead the way for a team that has three players averaging between 12.3 and 14.2 points per game.

Deeper Sleeper: San Diego

The Toreros are the five-seed, but they’ve struggled mightily on the offensive end in conference games (last in field goal percentage, eighth in three-point percentage). The good news is that they have an experienced backcourt of Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee, with the latter having the ability to get rolling from deep. But if they’re to make a run, players such as Duda Sanadze and Thomas Jacobs will need to step forward in the scoring department with Jito Kok serving as the defensive anchor in the post.

WCC Player of the Year: F Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga

Teammate Kevin Pangos was the conference’s pick for Player of the Year and that’s certainly understandable given his role on the team. But Wiltjer’s debut season for Gonzaga was an excellent one, as he averaged 16.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from beyond the arc.

WCC Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga

Sure the expectation was that Gonzaga would win the conference. But that doesn’t mean Few should be prohibited from receiving this honor. The Bulldogs went 29-2 overall and 17-1 in WCC play, with 14 of those conference wins being by ten points or more.

First-Team All-WCC:

  • Wiltjer
  • G Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: Pangos averaged 11.6 points and 5.0 assists per game for the champions, playing an average of nearly 33 minutes per contest.
  • G Tyler Haws, BYU: One of the best shooters in the country, BYU’s all-time leading scorer averaged 22 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field.
  • G Kyle Collinsworth, BYU: An argument can be made that Collinsworth is the most versatile player in college basketball, as he tallied an NCAA-record five triple-doubles this season.
  • F Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: Waldow averaged 19.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, shooting better than 56 percent from the field.

Second Team All-WCC:

  • G Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara
  • G Johnny Dee, San Diego
  • G Kerry Carter, Saint Mary’s
  • F Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
  • C Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga

Defining moment of conference play: BYU’s win at Gonzaga (February 28)

While the Bulldogs have been part of the one-seed conversation for most of the season, the same wasn’t the case for a BYU team that’s had to navigate multiple injuries throughout the season. And while they had the benefit of a solid non-conference schedule, Dave Rose’s team had yet to pick up a “signature” victory. That changed in Spokane on the last day of February, and that win could be what gets BYU an at-large bid should they need it.

CBT Prediction: Gonzaga wins its third straight WCC tournament title, beating Saint Mary’s in the title game.

Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Karl Cochran (Getty Images)
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Karl Cochran (Getty Images)

The SoCon looks quite a bit different than it has in past seasons, as Davidson and the College of Charleston are no longer in the league while new additions like Mercer and East Tennessee State have made an immediate impact. And while there has been some turnover in the membership, the league’s power still ended up being Wofford, as many predicted prior to the season. The Terriers are a veteran-laden group, but they split their two games with Chattanooga, who finished in second in the conference, this season.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket


When: March 6-9

Where: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.

Final: Monday, March 9 7:00 p.m. ESPN2

READ MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Wofford

The Terriers returned essentially their entire roster from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and it showed during the season. After notching a number of quality non-conference wins — Iona, Charleston Southern, N.C. State — Wofford ended up winning the outright SoCon title. Wofford is led by league Player of the Year. Karl Cochran.

And if they lose?: Chattanooga

Shaka Smart protégé Will Wade has turned the Mocs into one of the most promising mid-major programs in the country. The goal is to eventually run ‘Chaos’, which is the mid-major version of VCU’s ‘Havoc’, and while they aren’t completely chaotic just yet, this is still a team that has won quite a few games in the past two years. The addition of VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo this season was huge.


  • Mercer: Last season, the Bears won the Atlantic Sun to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where they upset Duke in the opening round. They lost seven seniors off that team, but they also changed leagues and, led by a powerfully athletic guard like Ike Nwamu, finished in third in the always-tough SoCon.
  • Western Carolina: The Catamounts are led by the SoCon’s most dynamic guard, James Sinclair, and while they finished just 9-9 in league play, they were one of just three teams that were actually able to notch a win over either Wofford or Chattanooga.

Player of the Year: Karl Cochran, Wofford

A 6-foot-1 guard, Cochran was the spark for Wofford’s offense this season. He averaged 15.0 points, 5.8 boards, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals on the season while shooting 37.5 percent from three as the team’s only real perimeter threat.

Coach of the Year: Mike Young, Wofford

Young is the easy pick here, as he was able to back up the preseason projections and win the league’s regular season title. His job was made easier by the fact that he had a veteran team coming off of a league tournament championship from last season.

All-Southern Conference Team:

  • Cochran
  • Jalen Riley, ETSU – Riley finished the season averaging a league-best 20.7 points.
  • Ike Nwamu, Mercer – Nwamu led the Bears in their first season in the SoCon, leading them to a third place finish in the league.
  • Casey Jones, Chattanooga – Jones was the leading scorer and the best player for the Mocs, the clear-cut second-best team in the conference.
  • James Sinclair, Western Carolina – Sinclair was the most dynamic player in the conference, averaging 19.1 points, 5.7 boards and 3.1 assists, which included the 40 points he had against VMI.

CBT PREDICTION: Wofford returns to the tournament by beating Mercer in the finals.

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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 READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

After being alone at the top in recent years, Wichita State has a nearly equal rival in Northern Iowa this season. Both teams are 27-3 and ranked in the top 15 as the Valley will surely get two teams in the NCAA Tournament. But first comes Arch Madness, and a few teams like Illinois State, Indiana State and Evansville are capable of stringing together some wins and stealing a bid.

The Bracket


When: March 5-8

Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis

Final: Sunday, March 8, 2:00 p.m., CBS

READ MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Wichita State

The Shockers enter Arch Madness as the No. 1 seed. The trio of Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton has won a lot of games in Saint Louis the last few years. Gregg Marshall’s team should be favored again after a strong recent showing at home against Northern Iowa. If the basketball gods are looking down on his, they’ll grant us a grudge match between the Shockers and Northern Iowa. Back in January, the Panthers handed Wichita State their only loss of the Missouri Valley season.

And if they lose?: Northern Iowa

Also at 27-3 this season are the Panthers, who are the No. 2 seed and might have a more favorable draw on their side of the bracket. Led by Player of the Year Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa is deep, balanced and experienced and are looking to add some postseason success to an otherwise tremendous season.


  • Illinois State: The Redbirds have battled injuries this season but still finished at No. 4 in the Valley. Tough defensively and balanced, Dan Muller’s team will compete with anyone.
  • Indiana State: Evansville and Loyola have better win totals, but the Sycamores were more successful in conference play. Devonte Brown and Brenton Scott are a nice scoring combo while Jake Kitchell has looked good in conference play.

Player of the Year: Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa

The 6-foot-8 senior is third in the conference in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg) while placing fourth in assists (3.3 apg) and first in field-goal percentage (63 percent shooting). He’s also improved to 44 percent as a 3-point shooter and been consistent for much of the season for a 27-win team.

Coach of the Year: Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa

Gregg Marshall deserves a ton of crediting for maintaining Wichita State as a top-15 program, but Jacobson took a program barely above .500 a year ago and made them into a top-15 team with a chance at making the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

All-Missouri Valley Team:

  • Tuttle
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State – Now the main scorer for the Shockers, the 6-foot-3 junior guard is averaging 15.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game on admirable splits (44% FG, 40% 3PT, 75% FT)
  • Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State – A Cousy award finalist, the junior is averaging 12.5 points and a conference-best 5.4 assists per game. Van Vleet is also averaging 4.4 rebounds per game.
  • D.J. Balentine, Evansville – One of the nation’s most prolific scorers at the mid-major level, Balentine averages 19 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
  • Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville – In a league dominated by guards, the 6-foot-10 junior led the Valley in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and was second in blocks (2.3 bpg) and field goal percentage (59 percent shooting).

CBT PREDICTION: Wichita State over Northern Iowa