March is my favorite month for two reasons: It’s the month my wife and I decided to get married and, of course, March Madness. No matter what sport is your favorite, most sports fans across the country agree that there is nothing quite like March Madness. Cinderellas, upsets, buzzer beaters, and brackets are what makes it great. But we all know the stress that comes from watching our teams try to do what it takes to win over the selection committee; earn quality wins and dominate conference play. The WCC has represented well in the past few years with Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s all doing some dancing, but what does the WCC have to offer this year? How many teams will get a bid? And who is showing they have what it takes?
One thing that the selection committee will look at as it evaluates the WCC is the overall conference record against quality opponents. Sadly, the WCC is only 1-13 against ranked opponents not named Gonzaga. The only victory belongs to Gonzaga over Oklahoma State. Besides the Bulldogs, the conference failed to show up in the preseason. This doesn’t bode well for a conference that thinks it deserves multiple bids. For the conference to get more than one bid, a team not named Gonzaga needs to step up. Yes BYU and Saint Mary’s, I’m talking to you.
Of course Gonzaga is a lock. They will be dancing. The question is where? Currently they are being predicted as a 3 seed and in some predictions as a 2 seed. I personally think they will be a 2 seed. They have shown they are the team to beat with possibly the best back court in the country. They are built to make a run in the tourney and I think this is the best team they have ever had, and it’s not even close (sorry Adam Morrison fans). They had a small hiccup against San Diego (a team that has proven it loves to play better than it should against teams it shouldn’t be playing well against) which was surprising, but they are still light-years above the rest of the conference. I’m looking for them to make a Final Four appearance and as a BYU fan will be cheering them on the entire way.
I think it’s pretty obvious by now that Saint Mary’s has proven to be the next best team. They showed up in Provo and beat the Cougars in their own home, something that is a rarity. They turned a potential blowout loss to Gonzaga into a close game and will have another shot at them next week. But it won’t be a walk in the park for the Gaels. I think they make it to the tourney if they beat BYU, even if they lose again to the Zags. They have shown that they can play with anyone and with Matthew Dellavedova running this team, they are impossible to underestimate. They are receiving votes in nearly every national poll and many pundits see them as actual top 25 quality. If they win out, they will be a lock, no matter the results of the WCC tourney.
BYU on the other hand is no longer in total control of their destiny. Of course it is up to them whether or not they can win the rest of their games, but they would need a string of good luck in the conference tournament to be able to feel confident in a selection. Not only was the loss to San Diego by far their worst in conference play, it is arguably their worst of all season and will lose favor in the selection committee’s eyes. The make up game against Utah State comes at the worst time possible; two days before playing at Saint Mary’s, which is followed by the game vs Gonzaga. That is a very tough stretch and it will take a miracle for the Cougs to pull off a sweep of all 3. If BYU wins out, they have a shot at going into WCC tournament play as a 2 seed and hoping Gonzaga gets upset before having to face them. (Of course for BYU to get a 2 seed, Saint Mary’s would have to lose to Gonzaga and BYU, while the Cougars win out. Like I said, it’s a long shot)
I honestly believe that Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU have what it takes to be solid tourney teams. But with the MWC and Pac 12 both receiving the amount of love that they are, it’s extremely unlikely that more than 2 teams will be selected from the West Coast Conference, try as hard as they might. Hopefully the 2 teams that are selected will represent well and show the country that the WCC deserves at least one more slot to the Big Dance.