WCC Tournament Preview

6 Mar

When: 3/6-3/10

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas


Who should win: I should just type Gonzaga and leave it at that. The Zags are just so balanced. A dynamic, veteran PG in Pangos, a rangy scoring freak in Wiltjer, an at times dominant frontcourt, and defenders like Bell on the perimeter. This is Few’s best squad, and he really focused on shedding the “soft” label that has been unfairly attached to his teams (watch Sabonis when he gets the ball on the block, he makes the defender look like a tacking dummy). The offense works to get great looks, they defend, and they rebound. I’m not sure why people criticize the Zags (generally Pac12 writers), but this team has it all. They’re one of a few teams I think can legitimately win it all (Wisconsin, Arizona, and Kentucky being the others). I would be fairly shocked if the national champ isn’t one of those four teams, but I certainly didn’t see UConn coming last year.

If not them then: BYU obviously has the firepower to beat anyone in the country, but the defense has improved, particularly in the paint, and they’re rebounding much better as well. In short, they’ve added some umph to the finesse, and that’s a scary notion. The Cougars come in having won 6 in a row, and 8 of their last 9, plus they don’t have Pepperdine on their side of the bracket, and they went 7-1 (loss in Moraga) vs the teams in their bracket, and none were really that close.

Sleeper: St. Mary’s can shoot the ball and they of course have a legit big man in Brad Waldow inside, but the Gaels have had some issues defensively, particularly because Bennett’s sagging defense can be bombed in a league with potent offenses at the top. Still, they match up well with Portland, as Waldow is too physical for the Portland twin towers inside, and the Gaels have some versatile perimeter length they used to bother Wintering and Bailey.

Deep sleeper: Pepperdine swept BYU, split with St. Mary’s, and nearly knocked off Gonzaga. Marty Wilson did a fantastic job with the Pepperdine defense, essentially pulling a 180 after the graduation of Lane, as the Waves became one of the best teams in the country in terms of taking away the three, when they were more of a funnel the offense to the big shot blocker type of defense last year. Their ability to take away the three in an efficient offensive league like the WCC was the key to their season, as was the rim attacking of Stacy Davis offensively. However, they don’t have consistent perimeter threats, and the offense can be prone to long scoreless stretches against teams who pack the paint or utilize a zone, or anyone with real height who can limit the smaller Davis around the rim. Plus the loss of Udenyi can’t be understated in terms of his impact on the offense. They don’t have an easy matchup either with a dangerous San Diego team either. In the first meeting, the Pepperdine defense played the Toreros perfectly, taking away Anderson and Dee, and Sanadze was ineffective due to injury, and the Waves scored a big win at Jenny Craig by holding them to .75ppp. However, USD got revenge in Malibu by dominating the smaller Waves inside and scoring routinely in transition thanks to a 29% TO rate, and that Torero ball pressure could be an issue again for the banged up and shorthanded Waves.

The rest: There isn’t much to look at in the play-in field tonight, but the one team who has an outside chance at maybe making a little noise is San Francisco. They have an athletic frontcourt with Pinkins and Tollefson that can cause some problems, but they can’t shoot from outside and it seems like they’re often not on the same page as a team. They play a Pacific team that can’t matchup with them athletically inside, and one they swept and just beat on Saturday. TJ Wallace clearly isn’t 100% for the Tigers, and with his slashing ability limited, Pacific becomes way too reliant on the three. The Dons will give you the three, but an already poor shooting Pacific team will be shooting in a relatively unfamiliar, bigger arena. Regardless, the winner gets Gonzaga in the quarters. Everyone for Loyola Marymount is banged up, including Evan Payne, which limits an already poor offense and even worse zone defense. Santa Clara isn’t good either, but they swept the Lions, they’re coming in with a lot of confidence after beating SMC, and Browridge and Clarke can get whatever they want vs LMU’s defense, but even if they win, they were absolutely throttled by BYU in both meetings.

Predictions: Santa Clara over LMU (ATS SC -2), San Francisco over Pacific (ATS USF -4.5)

Quarters: St. Mary’s over Portland, BYU over Santa Clara, Gonzaga over San Francisco, San Diego over Pepperdine

Semis: BYU over St. Mary’s, Gonzaga over San Diego

Finals: Gonzaga over BYU


WCC Coach of the Year: Mark Few – Gonzaga
Dominated the league yet again with a 17-1 mark. Has improved the defense the last couple years. They aren’t considered the soft, finesse team anymore with their size.

WCC Player of the Year: Kyle Wiltjer – Gonzaga
There weren’t enough basketballs to go around at Kentucky for Wiltjer so he transfers closer to home (Portland native) and becomes player of the year for the #7 team in the country. The media voted for Kevin Pangos as a career award but Gonzaga really goes where Wiltjer takes them.

Kyle Wiltjer (6-10, 240, Jr) – Gonzaga
Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 288, Jr) – Gonzaga
Brad Waldow (6-9, 260, Sr) – Saint Mary’s
Tyler Haws (6-5, 195, Sr) – BYU
Kyle Collinsworth (6-6, 210, Jr) – BYU

Domantas Sabonis (6-10, 231) – Gonzaga (Freshman of the Year)
Emmett Naar (6-1, 195) – Saint Mary’s
Shawn Olden (6-3, 175) – Pepperdine
Devin Watson (6-1, 175) – San Francisco
Matt Hubbard (6-9, 210) – Santa Clara

Tourney Pick:
1 Gonzaga over 2 BYU


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