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10 players to watch in the WCC Tournament

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The West Coast Conference Tournament starts tomorrow.

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The West Coast Conference Tournament returns to Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 2-6. Here is the full bracket. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the favorite to gather the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, but the Saint Mary’s Gaels might be a play as well.

And there you have a full preview of the WCC Tournament. Barring an absolute catastrophe somewhere along the way, the Bulldogs and the Gaels should be the two teams playing in the finals for the third-straight year.

So rather than rehash a bunch of words about each team, let’s take a look to highlight a player from each team to keep an eye out on.

BYU Cougars - Yoeli Childs

There was a lot of excitement about Childs as a freshman last year, and this year he is proving that hype is justified. Childs is probably one of the top three players in the league next to Jock Landale and Johnathan Williams. He is fourth in conference in scoring (17.4), third in the conference in rebounds (8.7), and third in blocks per game (1.9). His style of play is very reminiscent of Gonzaga great Elias Harris. He is only a sophomore as well, so we get plenty more time to enjoy his play.

Gonzaga Bulldogs - Rui Hachimura

Rui Hachimura is the one returning player from last year’s championship squad that is still a bit of a mystery for those that don’t follow Gonzaga. The Japanese import has made huge strides in his sophomore season, and that has been on full display during the conference. Hachimura has three 20+ point games in conference play, with two of them being against Saint Mary’s. As Rui has become more comfortable in the offense, he has been that much more fun to watch. It almost looks effortless when he scores sometimes, and although the defense occasionally leave something to be desired, he has also improved dramatically in that department. A NBA team might take a flier on Hachimura in the 2018 NBA Draft, but hopefully not. Gonzaga isn’t done watching him yet.

LMU Lions - Eli Scott

In a largely forgettable year, the freshman from Chino Hills has been a nice spotlight for LMU. Scott averages 13 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and outside of turnover issues, has been one of the better newcomers in the league. He was named to the All-Freshman WCC Team. LMU is set up for a decent next season, and Scott is going to be the face of the team for the next three years.

Pacific Tigers - Damon Stoudamire

This is a bit of a cop out, but Stoudamire has done a fantastic job of coaching the Tigers this season. The WCC rarely gives encouraging prospects for schools not named Gonzaga in a sustainable manner, but Stoudamire put together a good start this season. Pacific played Saint Mary’s within three points. They upset BYU this season. They gave Gonzaga absolute hell in the second game this season. Reading any of the profile pieces of Stoudamire, he has dove head first into the head coach grind. His profile should help this school pull itself back to respectable levels.

Pepperdine Waves - Colbey Ross

Thank goodness for Ross or else things at Pepperdine would be dire beyond belief. The Waves have been decimated by injuries for two consecutive years, and the reward for head coach Marty Wilson was the ax. Now, the question, of course, is if Ross, a freshman, will stick around for the new coach. For Pepperdine’s sake, hopefully he will. Ross is one of the better point guards in the conference, ranked second in the WCC in assists per game. He is a legitimate three point threat who could do some serious damage if he attempted more three per game (he is shooting 46 percent from long range in conference play).

Portland Pilots - Josh McSwiggin

At 6’7, McSwiggin is exactly the sort of bigger body the Pilots have needed to compete with the upper teams of the WCC. Portland has often been able to peace together squads featuring a couple of really tall guys, and then some really short guards, with little variance in between. McSwiggin provides a matchup issue at the winger position. He has the length and height to defend multiple positions and shown a knack for scoring. For a school that is in the throes of completely rebuilding under Terry Porter, McSwiggin is a nice addition that isn’t a coach’s son.

Saint Mary’s Gaels - ERROR

CAN’T DIVIDE BY ZERO

San Diego Toreros - Isaiah Pineiro

Gonzaga fans saw the skills of Pineiro as he kept the Toreros dangerously close to Gonzaga for much of the game last week, and is a large reason why San Diego finished fourth in the conference. Pineiro transferred from Portland State and still has a couple of years of eligibility left. He is a workhorse with a nice jumpshot and is comfortable scoring from anywhere on the court. He has made huge jumps defensively this season, and presuming that San Diego stays within the same system (even if there is a coaching change stemming from Lamont Smith’s domestic abuse charges), Pineiro is poised to lead San Diego for years to come.

San Francisco Dons - Souley Boum

The Dons kept it close against Gonzaga at home, and Boum was a big reason for that. The true freshman from Oakland dropped 22 points in front of the home crowd. Boum has plenty of room for improvement—he only shot 37 percent on the year. But he has displayed a knack for shooting, and hopefully will continue to make better shot selections as he gets older. Between him and Jordan Ratinho, things are looking up at San Francisco.

Santa Clara Broncos - Josip Vrankic

The freshman forward is averaging 10.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, but the potential is there for the future. Vrankic was tapped by Canada to play on a U-19 team, and although he didn’t see much time on the court, the selection is enough to speak of his abilities. There is still a lot of work that needs to go into Vrankic’s game. His FG% of 41 is pretty sad for a forward, and his defensive awareness needs a lot of work. But out of all the young pieces Head Coach Herb Sendek has at his disposal, Vrankic holds the most promise.