Conference Tourney Primers: West Coast

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 6th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

West Coast Tournament

Dates: March 6-7, 9-10

Site: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, NV)

wccWhat to expect: Gonzaga looked well on its way to in-conference perfection and possibly a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before BYU spoiled things last Saturday. That should only make the Bulldogs angry this weekend in Las Vegas. Expect the league champs to reach their 18th-straight West Coast Conference title game – where they will probably meet the Cougars for a third time – and make a statement heading into Selection Sunday. As for that BYU team… with numerous outlets projecting it among the ‘last four in’ and ‘last four out’, the Cougars can ill afford to stumble prior to the championship game. Their postseason hopes could come down to a semifinal tilt with Saint Mary’s on Monday – not an easy task, considering the teams’ regular season split.

Favorite: Gonzaga. The Zags went 29-2 during the regular season, rank among the top 10 nationally by most polls and metrics, and largely breezed through their WCC schedule. On a neutral floor, this is a no-brainer.

Sleeper: Saint Mary’s. Just one week prior to BYU’s upset of Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s also had the conference champs on the ropes. The Gaels start four seniors – including standout big man Brad Waldow (19.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG) – and have proven capable of beating the Cougars, their possible match-up in the semifinals. If they pass that test and meet the Bulldogs on Tuesday, who knows? Weird things happen in rivalry games.

Who wins: Gonzaga. Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, Byron Wesley, Przemek Karnowski – the list goes on. Gonzaga has unmatched depth, size and experience and should roll through the field this weekend. BYU could make things interesting in the championship game, but don’t expect the Cougars to strike gold twice in a span of 10 days.

Player to watch: Kyle Wiltjer – Gonzaga. His decision to transfer from Kentucky worked out pretty well, didn’t it? Wiltjer won the WCC Newcomer of the Year award (and probably should have won Player of the Year) after averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG and shooting 45 percent from behind the arc this season. He currently ranks ninth in KenPom’s kPOY standings. The junior’s worst performance of the season came against BYU last Saturday, so expect him to bounce back in a big way in Las Vegas.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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One response to “Conference Tourney Primers: West Coast”

  1. Gael Fan says:

    For what its worth, Saint Mary’s starts five seniors, not four.

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