Posted: 2:09 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Zach Bell
Since the WCC Tournament shifted to the bright lights of Las Vegas, it has only known one thing - a Gonzaga v. Saint Mary's title game. The past four seasons have resulted in these two programs meeting in the tournament finale. As the 2013 tournament begins, many are wondering if that trend will change. Who will unseat one of these two powerful programs and take their chance at the automatic bid. While the regular season would suggest that it is unlikely to happen, there are a number of teams eyeing the chance to add to the madness of March.
BYU and Santa Clara lay in wait for the winners of tonight's games and they are the likely teams to unseat the Zags or Gaels. In tonight's games, Loyola Marymount will take on San Francisco while San Diego will take on Pepperdine in the late game. The Toreros were the last West Coast Conference team to make it to the finals as they actually upset the Zags in 2008 in the conference tournament finals. After that, the WCC decided to leave the rotating tournament site idea and relocate to Las Vegas. While I'm sure this has been a big win for the conference financially, it has without a doubt made the big upsets basically nonexistent.
This season Gonzaga enters as the clear favorite. They are not only the top seed, but the No. 1 team in the country which has made the already present target on their back that much larger. The Zags swept through conference play with very little resistance but that does not guarantee their fortunate in Las Vegas. Saint Mary's has won just as many conference tournaments in Las Vegas as Gonzaga has since the move happened and the Gaels will not be intimidated by the ranking that comes along with the Zags. Other teams like San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara and, most recently, BYU have give the Bulldogs a tough time but simply did not have enough down the stretch to pull off the upset.
With the added motivation of potentially beating the No. 1 team in the country, it will be interesting to see how the tournament plays out. Tonight we will get a good glimpse of what teams can potentially get hot. I don't expect Pepperdine or LMU to pose much of a threat to San Francisco or San Diego and, speaking honestly, I don't expect any of the four teams tonight to make much of an impact in the overall tournament picture. San Diego would be the one team that I have the most faith in but I am by no means picking them to make the finals.
Santa Clara and BYU could be different stories and an underlying story will be how the recent sanction impact Saint Mary's. With this being Matt Dellavedova's final WCC Tournament, my guess is that he won't let SMC not make it to the finals.
Winners in Bold
#5 USF v. #9 LMU
#6 San Diego v. #7 Pepperdine
#5 USF v. #4 Santa Clara
#6 San Diego v. #3 BYU
#4 Santa Clara v. #1 Gonzaga
#6 San Diego v. #2 Saint Mary's
#2 Saint Mary's v. #1 Gonzaga