The autobid to the NCAA Tournament, in theory, is designed to give all those little schools in all those little conferences a chance to make March Madness. For the WCC over the past couple of decades, it has been anything but that. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have a history of owning this tournament, having gone 14-3 in title games over the past 17 years.
Stretch that winning percentage to 37-3, and the WCC Tournament has been Gonzaga's personal playing ground. This is important this season, because obviously the Zags will need to string together wins to have this streak continue.
Of course, one of the big differences in the current WCC Tournament and previous ones, the top two seeds no longer have an extreme cake walk into the semi-finals. A lot of Gonzaga's success in the WCC Tournament can also be attributed to the fact that they only had to win two games to take the crown and get the autobid.
And of course, the other big difference between the current WCC Tournament and previous ones is that the tournament is now held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Gonzaga faithful travel to Las Vegas in droves, better than any school by a longshot. Perhaps the only school who can compare, slightly, is BYU. In Las Vegas, the Zags basically have the advantage of playing in a home environment for each and every game.
That is important. All Gonzaga needs to do here is string together three straight good games. This means that the Zags have potential dates with BYU and Saint Mary's, in back to back games. We saw the Zags #zagup yesterday in Provo. They will need to do that, and even more, if they wish to make the NCAA Tournament.
There is obviously a lot riding on this tournament. At the beginning of the season, the locker rooms of BYU, Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and probably even Pepperdine were chalk-full of inspiring speeches about making the NCAA Tournament. For each of these teams, at the beginning of the season, you could make a legitimate case they were going to be on the big stage in March. Each of those teams didn't have the year transpire how they wanted to, and now, the WCC Tournament is the only way in.
Gonzaga has owned this WCC Tournament for years, and for its streak to continue, they need to make sure the dominance continues. The odds are stacked higher this season, but the team might finally be showing fight at the right time. After all, half the time for the NCAA Tournament (as Tom Izzo has always proven), it isn't necessarily how you perform over the entire course of the season--just have to make sure you are peaking at the right time.