BYU and Gonzaga got to the championship game on slightly different paths. Gonzaga needed a David Stockton layup to slip by Santa Clara in the quarterfinals and then demolished Saint Mary's in the semifinals. BYU handled LMU in the quarterfinals and then needed overtime to slip by San Francisco in the semifinals. For Gonzaga, it is the 17th straight WCC Tournament championship game. For BYU, it is the Cougars first.
The automatic bid is a nice thing to have, for sure, but most likely both Gonzaga and BYU will head to the NCAA Tournament. A win here or a loss here shouldn't shake up projected seeding too much either. That isn't nothing is on the line. With the team's splitting the season series, each winning its home game, there is plenty of bragging rights to be had here.
Against San Francisco, on paper it looked like BYU's offense did quite well. Tyler Haws finished with 24 points and was one of five Cougars to score in double figures. BYU had to fight for a lot of those points -- especially Haws and Matt Carlino. Haws went 5-of-19 from the floor and Carlino was 4-of-12. Haws more than made up for it on the line, going a perfect 14-for-14.
A team doesn't merely push past the Cougars. They have more than enough offense to go around. But they are a team that can be hassled into poor shooting. BYU aren't a trigger happy team from beyond the arc and rely pretty heavily on getting to the line, where they excel a lot. The Cougars were 24-of-28 from the free throw line and it was the difference between a win and a loss against San Francisco.
There are two wild cards the Bulldogs need to watch after. Ignore Haws, because Haws is going to get his points. No matter what he has to do, Haws will get his points. Kyle Collinsworth and Eric Mika are the two wild cards for BYU. Actually, we'll call Collinsworth the X-factor and Mika the wild card. Collinsworth was fantastic against San Francisco, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Mika was also quite good, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but also was called for an incredibly dumb technical on his part. He also had one of the more impressive flops I have ever seen in the college game -- luckily it wasn't called. To a certain degree, I am bummed that Mika is going on his mission next year, because he is the enemy we all need.
Gonzaga still needs to adjust the offensive scheme a bit to match up against BYU. Pangos was second fiddle to the rest of the backcourt, scoring nine points on only four field goal attempts against Saint Mary's. It was fine because Stockton had the best game of all time with 21 points and no turnovers. Bell was the perfect compliment with 14 points. Pangos wasn't needed to score on Monday. Against BYU, we will need him to score.
Sam Dower also had his worst shooting night of the season against Saint Mary's, going 2-of-11 from the floor. This followed up his second worst shooting night of the season against Santa Clara where he went 4-of-10. I'm an entirely unconcerned with this for multiple reasons: first off, Dower's shooting 58 percent on the year, and second off Dower is a perfect 23-for-23 from the free throw line in the tournament. He will find a way to score.
BYU came into the WCC Tournament as the hottest team in the conference. The crowd should be pretty evenly matched between the Gonzaga faithful and the BYU nutcases, but the Cougars are also entering the game with slightly more tired legs. I expect this game to be close and I expect this game to be fun.
Gametime: 6 p.m. PT
TV schedule: ESPN
Radio: Spokane - 1510 KGA AM, Seattle - 880 KIXI AM