The 2023 WCC Tournament kicks off today for men’s basketball, offering some intrigue into early March Madness as some team not named Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga attempts to earn an autobid into the NCAA Tournament.
The WCC utilizes a unique (aka great model that all mid-major conferences should use) tournament bracket in which the top teams in the regular season receive byes all the way through the semifinals, thereby putting some added emphasis on the importance of the regular season.
Some storylines to watch out for
Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s grudge match in the Championship?
The Zags and Saint Mary’s split the regular season and both lost at the hands of LMU. Saint Mary’s was awarded the No. 1 seed based on NET ranking, the third tie-breaker in the list of options. Theoretically, both teams should be favored to advance to the championship game. Although both teams are also locks for the NCAA Tournament, the previous two matchups were incredibly highly charged affairs, and a grudge match for the year shouldn’t be that much further behind. That should be the best game of the tournament.
Can a dark horse upset that trend?
Short answer, yes. LMU beat both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, and as the No. 4 seed receives a bye until the quarterfinals. Cam Shelton is one of the best scorers in the league and his numbers during conference play have been ridiculous. He went off in both of LMU’s wins over Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, so it is safe to assume he explode in any game he plays.
On Gonzaga’s side of the bracket, Santa Clara is dangerous. They own five losses on the WCC season, including a couple of road drubbings by the Gaels and Zags, but played both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga incredibly tightly on the home court. Illinois transfer Brandin Podziemski was just named one of the top players in the conference. Most years, the semifinals opponent for the Zags is usually a walk in the park. Not so much this time around.
It is worth tuning in to see some all-time WCC ballers play their last games.
The odds aren’t great that San Francisco will make the championship, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the game, because Khalil Shabazz will sign off on his collegiate career. Same goes for Cam Shelton and San Diego’s Marcellus Earlington. This doesn’t even factor in the plethora of other players, such as Podziemski or Pepperdine’s Houston Mallette, Maxwell Lewis, and Jevon Porter, who might depart for a try at the NBA or a transfer to a more higher-profile location.
Take a poo poo all over Gonzaga in the WCC all you want, but the conference consistently churns out some incredibly fun basketball players to watch.
Tournament Game Info
Thursday, March 2 - First Round
- Game 1: No. 8 Portland vs. No. 9 San Diego, 6:00 pm, Regional Sports Networks, BYUtv, WCC Network
- Game 2: No. 7 Pacific vs. No. 10 Pepperdine, 8:30 pm, Regional Sports Networks, BYUtv, WCC Network
Friday, March 3 - Second Round
- Game 3: No. 5 BYU vs. Winner of Game 1, 6:00 pm, Regional Sports Networks, BYUtv, WCC Network
- Game 4: No. 6 San Francisco vs. Winner of Game 2, 8:30 pm, Regional Sports Networks, BYUtv, WCC Network
Saturday, March 4 - Quarterfinals
- Game 5: No. 4 LMU vs. Winner of Game 3, 7:00 pm, ESPN2
- Game 6: No. 3 Santa Clara vs. Winner of Game 4, 9:30 pm, ESPN2
Monday, March 6 - Semifinals
- Game 7: No. 1 Saint Mary’s vs. Winner of Game 5, 6:00 pm, ESPN
- Game 8: No. 2 Gonzaga vs. Winner of Game 6, 8:30 pm, ESPN2
Tuesday, March 7 - Championship
- Championship Game, 6:00 pm, ESPN
- Saint Mary’s -115
- Gonzaga -105
- BYU +5000
- Santa Clara +5000
- San Francisco +10000
- Loyola Marymount +10000
- Pepperdine +50000
- Portland +50000
- Pacific +100000
- San Diego +100000