2014 WCC Tournament preview: Everything is on the line for BYU and Gonzaga

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A very quick rundown on the realistic chances of the teams in the WCC Tournament.

Depending on who you talk to, or read from, the WCC is either a two-bid league featuring BYU and Gonzaga or just a one-bid league featuring the championship of the WCC Tournament.

Personally, I'm in the two-bid league camp, but that also assumes that BYU and Gonzaga meet in the tournament final. If one of the two teams drops out in the semi-finals or quarterfinals, then it is a much different story.

Still, with the nature of the tournament and the autobid scenario that is now the norm in college basketball, teams can get hot at the right time and head to the tournament. The WCC was a lot closer this year, but there are still the quite good teams and the rather terrible teams. Let's break down the WCC Tournament and who has the best shot.

The Favorites

Gonzaga Bulldogs: Gonzaga was the best team in the conference by two games, despite a late season swoon to close it all out. The two wins against Pacific and Saint Mary's perhaps show that the Bulldogs are back to the level they showed at the beginning of conference play. Once again, the tournament is held in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, which is pretty much the home away from home for the Bulldogs. No fanbase in the WCC travels to Vegas like a bunch of people mired in a Spokane winter, and the environment for each game is as close to home as you can get in Nevada. Gonzaga still could use the WCC Tournament championship to erase any and all doubt about extending its streak of NCAA Tournament appearances. The Bulldogs are on the bubble, but bubbles are known to burst in March.

BYU Cougars: Any team that has WCC Player of the Year Tyler Haws leading the charge can't be counted out. BYU is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation and can easily drop 90 points in a night. The problem BYU has had all year is the defense hasn't been up to par, and the games when the offense struggles, BYU really struggles. The Cougars are in the bubble-watch talk due to a brutal non-conference schedule (No. 27 according to Ken Pomeroy), but could still use a bit of help. BYU holds wins over Stanford, Texas and Gonzaga, but nothing else. The Cougars lost every other opportunity in the non-conference and had several bad losses in conference play.

The Pretender

San Francisco Dons: I know that the Dons are having one of their best years in decades under Rex Walters, and their offense is playing a bit better than it has in a long while. But San Francisco has five losses in conference play, with four of those being against BYU and Gonzaga. The BYU games were closers, losses by five and seven points. Against Gonzaga, it was losses by 28 (without Dower or Bell) and 10. The Dons are entering the tournament riding a nice five game winning streak, so they do have momentum going for them.

The Dark Horse

San Diego Toreros: San Diego ends up here solely how close it played virtually everyone in the conference. The Toreros had eight games in conference decided by five points or less. No team slows the pace down in the conference quite like San Diego does, and it forces a lot of the teams into a style they aren't comfortable playing in. San Diego wasn't particularly good on defense or on offense, but junior guard Johnny Dee is more than capable of going off and getting those three extra points San Diego needs to win.

The Outlier

Saint Mary's Gaels: What a difference a year makes -- lose Matthew Dellavedova and become an absolute afterthought in the WCC. The thing is, I'm not convinced that the Saint Mary's Gaels are the same team that Gonzaga has absolutely destroyed in both meetings this season. Unfortunately for Saint Mary's, if all goes according to plan they have a semifinals meeting with the Bulldogs, and considering they lost both games to Gonzaga this season by 22 and 28 points, the odds don't look very good the Gaels can pull out a championship.

The Long Shot

Portland Pilots: Despite the 7-11 record, the WCC needs to respect the Pilots in this tournament. The Pilots aren't that good in reality, but they are more than capable of playing beyond their means. They hold wins over Gonzaga -- their first in an eternity -- and beat BYU in a triple overtime game. Nine of Portland's 11 losses were by 10 points or less and three of the losses were by three or less. The Pilots are one of the harder rebounding teams in the conference and make up for their lack of athleticism with a berserk hustle on the floor. Ryan Nicholas cleans up on the offensive boards like few players in the conference. The odds aren't high that Portland will be in the final but the Pilots aren't a team to look past.

Everyone Else

With apologies to Santa Clara, Pepperdine, Pacific and Loyola Marymount, it would take quite a bit of luck for any of these four teams to end up as the WCC Tournament winner. Between Pacific and Santa Clara, specifically, only one gets to advance past the first round and then it gets the pleasure of playing Gonzaga in the quarterfinals. Santa Clara played Gonzaga harder than Pacific did this year and would be an interesting potential quarterfinals matchup. Poor LMU was absolutely annihilated by injuries this year, and although the team has Anthony Ireland and Evan Payne, the Lions don't have a long enough bench (or really a bench at all) to survive the rigors of consecutive(ish) games in the tournament. Pepperdine enters the tournament skidding into nothingness, having lost five of its past six games. If any of these four teams wins the WCC, neither BYU or Gonzaga really deserves to play in March.

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