Dates: March 4-7
Site: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Outlook: As we have grown accustomed to these days, the WCC regular season title came down to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. In other news, grass is green, water is wet, and Virginia Tech is on the bubble.
Gonzaga was the favorite to win the league coming into the season, but the loss of Matt Bouldin hurt this team much more than anyone expected. The Zags struggled during their difficult non-conference schedule and took a couple of early losses in WCC play, including their first matchup, to fall behind the Gaels by two games. St. Mary’s seemingly had tossed the season into cruise control, but they went down to San Diego and suffered one of the most excruciatingly inexplicable losses of the season. They followed that up with losses to Gonzaga and Utah State at home, and all of a sudden the Gaels had not only blown their WCC lead, they put themselves in serious jeopardy of losing a potential at-large bid.
It says up a terrific scenario should both teams make it to the finals of the WCC Tournament. Two nationally recognized teams with familiar names and faces playing a nationally televised rubber match which, potentially, could be for their conference’s only bid to the NCAA Tournament. That, my friends, is March Madness at its best.
Its not a given that those two will reach the finals this season, however. Both the Gaels and the Zags have three league losses this season as the WCC has become a better league. Portland lost a lot from last season, but they still have Jared Stohl and Luke Sikma. San Francisco lost their top two scorers from last season, but they’ve become a much more balanced and deep team in their absence. Santa Clara? They have Kevin Foster (more on him below).
Championship game: March 7th, 9:00 pm:, ESPN
Player to watch: Kevin Foster, Santa Clara
Foster is the leading scorer in the WCC, and for good reason. He’s a gunner, having taken 298 threes in just 31 games this season, but when he gets going he can single handedly win a basketball game. Ask the Zags. They learned the hard way when Foster went for 36 against them earlier this year.
The Zags have the momentum right now. They’ve won seven games in a row. They came back from a two game deficit in league play to share the regular season title. They have the better front line, especially with the way Elias Harris and Sam Dower have been playing of late. The truth of the matter, however, is that I want whatever outcome will give both of these teams the best chance to go dancing.