Gonzaga finished off a perfect conference season for the first time since 2013. They’ll be the number one seed in Las Vegas and earned a double-bye to the semi-finals. In honor of the WCC Tourney starting this week, I’ve decided that today’s edition of This Week in Gonzaga History will be a look back at the 19 previous WCC Tournaments of the Mark Few Era. Gonzaga has been to the WCC Championship game all 19 seasons, winning it 15 times, including each of the last six. No team outside of BYU or Saint Mary’s has faced Gonzaga since San Diego pulled off a shocking victory in 2008. Three players have won back-to-back tournament MVP awards. See if you can remember who they are. The answer will be revealed as the recaps go.
2000 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Pepperdine in OT
The Bulldogs and Waves split the regular season series and were entrenched in one of the most underrated rivalries of the time. For the first time in the 14-year history of the WCC Tournament, the top two seeds met for the title. Mike Nilson, WCC Defensive Player of the Year, was sidelined with a ruptured Achilles suffered earlier in the tournament. Gonzaga took the early lead and extended it to four at halftime. The Waves rallied to take a one point lead midway through the second half. The teams would exchange buckets, but neither could hit the dagger on their final possession, sending the game into overtime. In OT, Richie Frahm scored seven of his 12 points and Gonzaga held on for a 69-65 victory. Casey Calvary went a blistering 11-for-13 from the field en route to 28 points and tournament MVP honors.
2001 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Santa Clara
Coming into the season, Gonzaga was picked to finish third in the conference. Instead, they went 13-1 and got won the regular season title. Most people expected a rematch of last year’s championship. Pepperdine only lost twice in conference, both games to Gonzaga. Instead, Santa Clara, who lost both games to the Waves by double digits in the regular season, upset Pepperdine in the semi-finals. The bad news for Gonzaga is that the only team to beat them in the regular season was Santa Clara, and they had just done it 10 days ago. For the second straight game, Gonzaga fell behind early, but used a late first half surge to pull ahead. In their semi-final win over San Diego, the Zags used a 16-0 run to overcome a double digit first half deficit. In the championship, they used a 22-3 run, sparked by three triples from Blake Stepp, to erase an 11-point Bronco lead. They held the lead until the final buzzer, but it wasn’t without drama. Santa Clara hit a remarkable 10 threes in the second half and pulled within a point with 30 seconds to play. But Dan Dickau iced the game from the foul line and the Bulldogs won their third straight WCC Title, 80-77. Dickau was named Tourney MVP after scoring 25 in the championship game.
2002 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Pepperdine
The Waves-Bulldogs rivalry was at its peak in 2002. It had been a few years of back and forth and each team was in a class of their own in the 2002 regular season. They both finished 13-1, with the loss coming to each other. The third place team was 8-6. There was no question that they would face off for the tournament championship. There were many memorable Dan Dickau performances in his career, but the second half of this game was one of his finest moments. When he got on a roll, there was no stopping him. Dickau scored 19 points in 7:30 and helped Gonzaga go from a 63-56 deficit to an 88-73 lead. He scored 27 of his 29 points in the second half and was named tournament MVP for the second straight year, becoming the first player since Hank Gathers to do so. Blake Stepp was also instrumental in their big second half run, finishing with 24 points and five made threes.
2003 WCC Championship – San Diego beats Gonzaga
The Toreros finished 7-7 three straight seasons while Gonzaga and Pepperdine were battling it out. In 2003, USD was full of seniors ready to pounce now that Pepperdine was falling off a bit. And pounce they did. The Zags finished 12-2 that season, two games ahead of USD, but just played a three point game against the Toreros in the final game of the regular season. The two teams breezed through their semi-final match ups and met for the crown at San Diego’s home gym (back when they alternated venues). Cory Violette missed the game after spraining an ankle, but Gonzaga still raced out to a 15-3 lead. They would struggle to score the rest of the night. 7-foot center and tournament MVP Jason Keep, who transferred in from Oklahoma State, scored 18 points and led the Toreros to a 72-63 win. It was the first time in the 17-year history of the WCC tournament that the host team won the title on their home floor. Ronny Turiaf scored 26 points, but Blake Stepp went 3-for-15 from the field and turned the ball over six times.
2004 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
The 2004 Bulldogs were a machine. They cruised through the WCC undefeated and were 25-2 heading into the WCC semi-finals at Santa Clara. The Broncos played inspired on their home court, led for almost the entire game, and Ronny Turiaf had to save the Zags. His put back with five seconds to go propelled Gonzaga to the championship, where they took down Saint Mary’s with relative ease. Turiaf’s heroics against Santa Clara and a career-high 29 points in the 84-71 title game victory were enough to warrant MVP honors.
2005 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
After Pepperdine’s program took a step back, Gonzaga needed a new challenger atop the conference. Saint Mary’s would answer the challenge and by the mid-to-late 2000s, the two schools were heated rivals. It started on January 8, 2005 when the Gaels upset #11 Gonzaga for their first win over the Zags since 1998. Saint Mary’s would finish the year 11-3 in conference, a game behind the 12-2 Zags, setting up a championship rematch. Much like in 2004, the Gaels never really got close. Adam Morrison dropped 30, Ronny Turiaf had a double-double, and Gonzaga won it 80-67. Morrison was named Tourney MVP.
2006 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats LMU
Gonzaga ripped through the WCC in 2006, going 14-0 and no one else better than 8-6. They hosted the WCC Tournament. And yet for some reason, they struggled mightily in both their semi-final and championship games. 6-8 San Diego hit a shot at the buzzer to send the semi-final to overtime. Luckily, the Zags held on to face the Lions in the title game. If you don’t remember how this one ended, let me just tell you that Gonzaga got incredibly lucky. After rallying from 15 down, Gonzaga battled back with a bunch of reserves. Erroll Knight and David Pendergraft were huge parts of a 20-7 run. With a minute to go, JP Batista tipped in an Adam Morrison miss and Gonzaga held a one-point lead. LMU had the ball with 10 seconds to go. Brandon Worthy was smothered and he found a WIDE OPEN Chris Ayer right underneath the basket for a game winning layup that he missed and Gonzaga escaped with a 68-67 victory. Morrison was named MVP for consecutive years.
2007 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Santa Clara
The 2007 Gonzaga Bulldogs had a rocky season. Their 10 losses may have put them on the bubble if they didn’t win the WCC Tournament. Luckily, they held serve as number one seed and ousted San Diego in the semis and second-seeded Santa Clara in the title game. Derek Raivio scored 28 points and was named tourney MVP.
2008 WCC Championship – San Diego beats Gonzaga
In his first season at the helm of San Diego, former Gonzaga assistant coach Billy Grier led the Toreros to a WCC Title. Playing at home at The Slim Jim, San Diego took down Saint Mary’s in the semi-finals in double overtime after rallying back from 17 down. They showed no ill effects from the battle against the Zags. They held Gonzaga to just 62 points and went on a 19-4 run in the second half to stun the top-seeded Bulldogs, 69-62. Gonzaga was 0-for-9 from beyond the arc, the first time without a made three since 1993. Brandon Johnson was named MVP.
2009 WCC Championship – Gonzaga crushes Saint Mary’s
There was no drama in 2009. Gonzaga roared through the regular season undefeated and proceeded to smack Santa Clara by 35 in the semis and then torch the Gaels by 25 in the title game. Micah Downs was named MVP after a double double in the final game.
2010 WCC Championship – Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga
Gonzaga finished 12-2, just ahead of the 11-3 record of the Gaels in the 2010 conference season. On paper, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Gaels win in the championship. But Gonzaga had beat them handily both times in the regular season, including a 20-point win a month earlier. So it was quite shocking that the Gaels came out and absolutely blitzed the Zags to the tune of an 81-62 victory. Mickey McConnell matched a career-high with 26 points, Ben Allen had a career-high 20, and Omar Samhan added nine points and seven rebounds. McConnell was named MVP.
2011 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
At this point, Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s is probably at its peak. The Gaels shocked the Zags in the title game the previous year and backed it up with McConell hitting a game winner at The Kennel in early 2011. Gonzaga responded by beating the Gaels in overtime in Moraga. So of course, they needed to battle it out one more time for all the marbles. It took a team effort to come away with the 75-63 win. Steven Gray scored a team-high 15 points, but it was the role players that led the way. Rob Sacre had 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Sam Dower had 10 points off the bench. Freshman David Stockton hit an enormous three that gave Gonzaga a five-point lead late in the game. And Marquise Carter was named MVP after his 18-point performance propelled the Zags past San Francisco in the semi-finals.
2012 WCC Championship – Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga in OT
This may have been the pinnacle of Saint Mary’s basketball. They won the regular season title outright, finishing a game ahead of the Zags. And then they went ahead and beat them in the tournament final after a flurry of dramatics to end regulation. After a back-and-forth affair, the Gaels led by three with 10 seconds to go. Mike (bless his) Hart forced a jump ball to give Gonzaga a chance. Elias Harris bombed up a 30 footer that went in to tie the game. It felt like one of those moments where you say, “There’s no way we lose in overtime now.” Welp. Saint Mary’s came out and won the overtime instead. The Zags managed just six points in the extra frame. Kevin Pangos went 3-for-15 from the field, including 1-of-10 from deep. Of course, Matthew Dellavedova was named MVP.
2013 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga was not happy with how the 2012 season went down, so they came out in 2013 and beat everyone senseless. They went through the regular season undefeated, became the number one team in the country, and then plowed through Saint Mary’s to win another WCC crown. Dellavedova was held to TWO POINTS in the 65-51 victory. Kelly Olynyk had 21 and 12 and Elias Harris was named MVP, averaging 20 points in the two tourney wins.
2014 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats BYU
This was the first year that Gonzaga had to play a quarterfinal game The double-bye was eliminated and Gonzaga was forced to face 9th seed Santa Clara. And the Broncos almost pulled off the biggest upset in tournament history. David Stockton hit a layup with a second to go to beat Santa Clara. He then went on to score 21 in the win over Saint Mary’s in the semi-finals. Sam Dower took care of the BYU Cougars in the title game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the 75-64 win. Dower was named MVP, but probably should have split that trophy with Baby Stocks.
2015 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats BYU
Gonzaga’s quest for a perfect conference season and hopes for a number one seed on Selection Sunday were dashed when BYU beat them on their home court on senior night. So when they saw each other in the WCC Championship, a little bit of revenge was on the mind. Six Zags scored in double figures and they pulled away in the second half en route to a 91-75 win. Kyle Wiltjer was named MVP after a double-double in the title game. Byron Wesley scored 25 in the semi-final win over Pepperdine.
2016 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
The streak lives on! After being on the wrong side of the bubble for the first time in forever, the only way Gonzaga knew they would get in the NCAA Tournament is by winning the WCC Title. They had to get through BYU and Saint Mary’s to do so. Eric McClellan’s breakout performance, Kyle Wiltjer’s shooting, Domantas Sabonis’ power, and Josh Perkins’ steady hand led them past both foes. McClellan probably should have won MVP because he was the spark plug to the entire operation, but they gave it to Wiltjer, who became the third Zag (Dickau, Morrison) to win back-to-back tournament MVP awards.
2017 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga had just lost their undefeated season. Saint Mary’s had only lost three games all season, two of them to the Zags. It’s really difficult to beat a good team three times in one season. Gonzaga didn’t care. They came out and put up a 20-point lead in the first half en route to a 74-56 win. Nigel Williams-Goss scored 22 and was named MVP. The Zags held Emmett Naar to just nine points and forced six Jock Landale turnovers.
2018 WCC Championship – Gonzaga beats BYU
Gonzaga was picked to finish second behind Saint Mary’s in the regular season. That did not happen. The Gaels vowed to beat the Zags in the WCC Tournament and punch their ticket to the dance. That did not happen. In fact, they got blasted by BYU in the semi-finals and missed the NCAA Tournament altogether. Gonzaga fans laughed and the Gonzaga players went out and beat BYU by 20 to win another WCC Title. Of course, this is the tournament where Killian Tillie refused to miss a three and was named MVP. By all accounts, current Killian Tillie is progressing well in rehab and may make an appearance in the 2019 WCC Tournament next week. He won’t be winning MVP honors, but if he can be healthy enough to play 10-12 minutes a game in the NCAA Tournament, watch out, folks.