2020 WCC Tournament Predictions and West Coast Conference Odds
This year's edition of the West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway on March 5 with two games being played in the first round of the tournament. This is a very unique set up as the top two teams get a bye right into the semifinals, while seeds three and four get their tournament started in the quarterfinals. The fifth and sixth seeds get started in the second round against the winner of the first two games, respectively. The winner of the tournament is designated the WCC Tournament Champion and receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 17 with the First Four play-in games. The entire tournament will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. This tournament has been dominated by Gonzaga over the last nine years as they've won seven titles, while Saint Mary's can stake a claim to the other two, including last year's upset of the Bulldogs.
The West Coast Conference had a tremendous year as a whole and will likely be rewarded handsomely come tournament time. The Zags are ranked third in the nation and will likely be a No. 1 seed. Beyond them, BYU and Saint Mary's have all but sewn up their spot in the tournament. And if someone pulls off the upset in the tournament, the WCC could occupy four spots in this year's edition of March Madness. This season marks just the fourth time in history that the WCC has five teams with 20 or more wins in the regular season. If Santa Clara can find a way to navigate Portland in their tournament opener game, that number becomes six and then sets a conference record.
So, in short, this tournament has a deep field of highly competitive teams, and I wouldn't rule out any possible outcome.
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The Favorite: Gonzaga (-220)
Be honest. Did you really expect the favorite of the WCC Tournament to be anyone other than Gonzaga? The Bulldogs broke a record for consecutive regular-season wins (40) this season despite replacing their entire frontcourt, who left via the NBA Draft, and dealing with injuries to a few key guys throughout the season. Gonzaga put all that behind them and still ranks second on KenPom and third in the AP Poll. They've beaten the following West Coast teams by 20+ points this season: BYU, Saint Mary's, Pacific, Santa Clara, Loyola, and San Diego (twice). They are simply a powerhouse, and they have the horses to run everyone off the court if needed. The Zags play a complex style of game, one that focuses on pounding the rock on the inside early on through Filip Petrusev, Killian Tillie and Drew Timme. These three giants wear down the opposing big men early on, so that come the second half the Zags switch speeds and play a more run and gun style of offense. It's unique, but it's extremely effective and we don't see them deviating from it any time soon. Rightfully, the Zags are the team to beat.
The Contenders: BYU (+220) & Saint Mary's (+800)
First-year head coach Mark Pope deserves a ton of credit for getting BYU back into the national spotlight. His coaching brilliance, combined with a lethal inside-out combo, has placed BYU inside the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2010-11 season ended. The Cougars have a top 10-ranked offense and they are led by the duo of Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws, who average 22.2 and 14.3 points per game, respectively. They are also buoyed by two key transfers in Alex Barcello (9.5 ppg) and Jake Toolson (15.3 ppg). It should also boost the Cougars' confidence to know that they won't have to see Gonzaga until the Finals and that they are the only WCC team to beat the Bulldogs.
As for Saint Mary's, the Gaels are one of the streakiest teams in the nation. When they are on and shooting the ball lights out, their offense is damn near unstoppable. When the shots aren't falling, the Gaels can revert to a slow, grind-it-out style of play that sees them very rarely break 60 points. The Gaels are 4-4 when the team shoots the ball worse than 32 percent from beyond the arc and 20-3 when it eclipses that mark. The Gaels are led by Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts, both of whom have bailed the Gaels out on different occasions.
Tournament Matchups Schedule
Game 1: No.8 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 9 San Diego (9:00 p.m. Thursday, March 5)
Game 2: No.7 Santa Clara vs. No.10 Portland (11:00 p.m., Thursday, March 5)
Game 3: Winner of Game 1 vs No.5 San Francisco (9:00 pm. Friday, March 6)
Game 4: Winner of Game 2 vs No.6 Pepperdine (11:00 pm. Friday, March 6)
Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs No.4 Pacific (10:00 pm. Saturday, March 7)
Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs No.3 Saint Mary's (12:30 am. Sunday, March 8)
Game 7: Winner of Game 5 vs No.1 Gonzaga (9:00 pm. Monday, March 9)
Game 8: Winner of Game 6 vs No.2 BYU (11:30 pm. Monday, March 9)
Game 9: Winner of Game 7 vs Winner of Game 8 (9:00 pm. Tuesday, March 10).
WCC Tournament Predictions:
If you are expecting this tournament to provide you with some extremely entertaining basketball, you've come to the right place. The first and second-round games should be extremely entertaining, with either team capable of pulling out the victory. However, once we get into the semi-finals where Gonzaga and BYU await, the tournament should become predictable and we will likely be on track for a Gonzaga vs BYU/Saint Mary's final. Gonzaga is the clear-cut favorite to win this tournament, but BYU beat them in the regular season while Saint Mary's beat them in last year's tournament finals. Can lightning strike twice? It's possible, but my money is on the Zags to reign supreme.
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