The 2016 WCC Tournament starts tomorrow. There is a lot on the line for all nine teams in the tournament: specifically, an autobid to the NCAA Tournament. At large bid you might ask? Preposterous. Those don't exist in the 2016 West Coast Conference.
But wait a second, did I also say nine teams? I thought the WCC has 10 teams in the conference? Well, turns out that Pacific's season ended early after some academic violations. So, for this year, the WCC is back to being a nine team league. Let's take a quick look at each one.
No. 1 Saint Mary's
Player to loathe: all of them
Player to watch: none of them
The Gael's are the top seed in the WCC Tournament thanks to wiping Gonzaga across the floor in Spokane and securing their first season sweep of Gonzaga since the dawn of time. The Gaels do a lot of things right. They shoot the ball better than any team in the country. Their eFG% is 59.0. That is nuts. They also take care of the ball, are a terrific three point shooting team, and basically have two starting point guards in Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon on the court at the same time.
What the Gael's don't have, however, are a lot of quality wins. Sure, they won in Spokane. But as we all saw, Saint Mary's didn't actually play that well. They just played a lot better than a garbage-ass Gonzaga squad. In the first game at home, they also had to fight to overcome a huge second-half deficit. Which they did, so kudos. It seems weird and berserkly homerish to say that the team that beat you twice this year isn't as good as you are, but I'm still not convinced that Saint Mary's is the best team in the league by a long shot. BYU beat ‘em once, Pepperdine beat ‘em twice, and we basically should have as well. So as easily as the Gaels can win the whole thing, there is just as good of a chance of them getting stuffed.
No. 2 Gonzaga
Player to loathe: none
Player to watch: all of them
Hey that is us!
No. 3 BYU
Player to loathe: Nick Emery
Player to watch: Zac Seljaas
The Cougars are led by Kyle Collinsworth, the triple-double machine, and a host of other great shooters. The Cougars have one of the faster paces in the nation and will try and run teams off of the court. They are also the squad, other than Gonzaga, that actually is able to pull a sizable fan base into Las Vegas. They are a force to be reckoned with.
That said, they are also a force that has dropped some questionable games (Pacific at home looks oh-so-bad), and although Nick Emery is a great scorer, he is also a freshman prone to disappearing. Keep an eye out on fellow freshman Zac Seljaas, however. The swing forward/guard has been seeing the court more and more as the season has progressed and is a very capable scorer who leads BYU with an ORtg of 132.8. He can be a definite x-factor.
No. 4 Pepperdine
Player to loathe: Lamond Murray Jr.
Player to watch: Jeremy Major
Get your cameras out folks, because with Lamond Murray Jr. in Las Vegas, there is a good chance his family friend DRAKE will be in attendance. But if not, Pepperdine as the No. 4 seed is exactly what Zag fans can hope for. This is because as long as Pepperdine does their job and pushes past San Francisco, they will most likely meet up with a Saint Mary's team they have beat twice.
Pepperdine is also the sneaky team to watch out for, regardless. They played Gonzaga tight and are on the Stacy Davis goodbye tour. Jeremy Major is also a threat from long range, and he has scored double-digit points in four-straight games to close out regular season play. It is an uphill climb for the Waves to ride to the WCC Championship game, but they have a good shot.
No. 5 San Francisco
Player to loathe: Tim Derksen
Player to watch: Uche Ofoegbu
The Dons really struggled down the stretch, losing their last three games of the regular season. Much of this can be attributed to their poor defense. BYU scored 114 points on them and Loyola Marymount somehow dropped 100 as well. Still, the Dons have some scorers on the team, led by Derksen, and they can try and shoot their way to victory. The major problem is that most teams usually shoot their way to victory over San Francisco. The Dons' three-point defense is one of the worst in the nation. Plus, Rex Walters is the only coach in the WCC to have officially blocked The Slipper Still Fits Twitter account.
No. 6 Santa Clara
Player to loathe: Nate Kratch
Player to watch: KJ Feagin
Realistically, the player to watch is obviously Jared Brownridge. Brownridge is one of the most explosive scorers in the WCC, and because he is playing, you pretty much can't count Santa Clara out of a game until they lose. Brownridge scored 44 against Arizona, 36 against Pacific and 38 against Portland. He is a scorer that will destroy any team if they give him the room. The big problem for Santa Clara is that the rest of the team isn't anywhere near that level. Still, if Brownridge gets hot, he can give BYU fits. All it will take is a few other players to show up when he goes super saiyan, and Santa Clara can upset anyone in this league.
No. 7 Portland
Player to loathe: Alec Wintering
Player to watch: D'Marques Tyson
Portland is a really weird team to try and track. They beat BYU and nearly beat Saint Mary's as well. They also dropped a ton of games, including a nine-point loss to San Diego to end the season. That said, the Pilots have a back court of Wintering and Bryce Pressley, which is good enough to keep them in it if their opponent goes through a cold stretch. The real player to watch is the sophomore guard Tyson, who has really stepped into his won this season. He scored 27 points against San Francisco, and has started to shoulder more of the scoring load for the Pilots as the season went on. He also loves to shoot the three, sometimes practically refusing to step inside the arc.
No. 8 Loyola Marymount
Player to loathe: Adom Jacko (if he plays)
Player to watch: Joshua Spiers
The Lions best player, Adom Jacko, missed the final four games of the season due to a back injury. If Jacko is out, that is a huge hit. Still, the Lions gutted out two overtime wins to close out the season without him, so maybe all hope isn't lost. Jacko, Brandon Brown and Steven Haney shoulder the scoring load for this team, but the player to pay attention to is Spiers. It doesn't happen too often, but he makes the best use of his minutes out of all the players on the squad, and any time Mike Dunlap has awarded him with extra minutes, Spiers has paid out big time.
No. 9 San Diego
Player to loathe: Jito Kok
Player to watch: Brett Bailey
The odds of San Diego doing much just aren't that high. Their offense was one of the worst in the nation and this is a team that can really struggle to put up points. That said, root for Spokane native Brett Bailey, who has put together a pretty nice junior season. Otherwise, you are best to avoid watching any game that San Diego plays. It can be a painful visual experience.