College basketball is a beautiful beast and a wild one at the same time. For all of the ills, wrongs, and errors this Gonzaga Bulldogs squad has made throughout the season, none of it matters if they pull off a win tonight over the Saint Mary's Gaels. And of course, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's in the WCC Championship game was how it was always supposed to be.
The narrative from the national media probably reads something along the lines of how Gonzaga is at risk of missing the NCAA Tournament and Saint Mary's swept them for the first time in years. In other words, big freaking whoop.
Or there is the other narrative. Saint Mary's is far from considered a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament, and they also might miss out with a loss in the championship game. Also, not to take anything away from their two well-deserved wins, but in the first game they had to storm back from a Gonzaga squad in the second half to steal it at home, and in the second game, they played like absolute garbage. It just turned out Gonzaga played even worse than them.
Those two losses give Gonzaga the edge in my opinion. This is a team that is hellbent on making the NCAA Tournament, and they have shown it in the past three games. It all started with taking it to BYU in Provo, and it is now going to finish tonight. Gonzaga has been in the championship game--a lot. Saint Mary's, as of recently, has as well. But their last WCC Tournament championship victory was in 2012.
Of course, it isn't as simple as saying that sheer will power is going to propel Gonzaga to victory. Saint Mary's still is one of the best shooting teams in the nation. They still have Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon. Evan Fitzner and Clavin Hermanson are also absurdly efficient with the ball. Make no mistakes, this team that they have right now is here to stick around next year.
But we have Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. And they have no way of guarding them. Eric McClellan continues his stellar play in the WCC Tournament and Josh Perkins has opened up as one of the WCC's more consistent three-point threats. The pieces have always been here for the Zags to win, no one just ever thought it would take this long for the blocks to fall into place.
The keys for the Zags to win are to play like they played last night and against Portland. Few teams in the conference can match up with the Zags when they are clicking like that. If the defense decides to hunker down for a bit, it'll be a tough matchup for Saint Mary's.
I'm not going to say by any stretch that the Gonzaga players want this win more than Saint Mary's, but the Gonzaga players have been playing with a feverish intensity that we haven't seen from this squad all year. They also have closed out their season in a brutal fashion, with games against SMU, Saint Mary's and BYU (x2). Saint Mary's opponents? Us, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, LMU and Pepperdine.
This one is going to be impossible to predict. The Vegas odds list Gonzaga as the favorite by a mere -2-point line. But, we are going to be in what is essentially a home arena. Once again, we will show the Saint Mary's Gaels that all trips to the NCAA Tournament don't come along unless Gonzaga approves.
Time: 6:00 pm PT
Radio: 1510 KGA/Sirius XM/TuneIn App (Tom Hudson, Matt Santangelo)