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The West Coast Conference Tournament, a tourney largely controlled by the Gonzaga Bulldogs over the past 20 years, has multiple contenders this season. Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara all have strong squads and could rattle off a few wins to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Check out our analysis on the WCC Tournament and the teams involved below.
It hasn’t been the season that head coach Mark Few and all-time great collegiate big man Drew Timme had in mind. The Bulldogs have put to rest any discussion of having an easy route to a No. 1 seed after loading up their non-conference schedule.
Unfortunately, they just may not be quite as good as they have been in the past few seasons. Gonzaga has secured wins over Michigan State, Kentucky, Xavier, and Alabama but dropped games to Baylor, Purdue, and Texas.
While there have been some promising moments in non-conference games, there have been virtually none in WCC play. The ‘Zags aren’t dominating the West Coast Conference how they usually do, and when they are winning, it is often coming by single digits.
As a matter of fact, they had four single-digit wins against Santa Clara, Pacific, BYU, and San Francisco by the end of January. That is far from the dominance we are used to seeing.
Still, as always, Gonzaga boasts a top-five offensive attack in the country behind Timme, Julian Strather, Rasir Bolton, Anton Watson, Malachi Smith, and Nolan Hickman.
Few teams have the firepower that the Bulldogs have, but their defense has been tremendously bad this season compared to years in the past, forcing them always to have an “on” shooting night if they want to win.
Luckily, Bolton and Strawther are each 40% three-point shooters, and Timme hits over 60% of his FGA (field goal attempts.)
The Bulldogs have a great chance to win the WCC Conference Tournament, but there are multiple contenders that could knock them off if they are not careful.
While Saint Mary’s hasn’t had the strength of schedule that Gonzaga has, it is certainly taking care of the opponents it has played. The Gaels are one year removed from a blistering “Round of 64” win against one of the then-hottest teams in the nation, Indiana.
Unfortunately, they were bested by the UCLA Bruins after that, a team familiar with winning in March that had returned most of its players from the Final Four run the season before. It was bad luck for the Gaels, but they have come back even better this season.
Saint Mary’s has merely lost a handful of games, which includes a three-game losing streak at the end of November and the beginning of December, when it dropped matches to Houston, New Mexico, and Washington.
Two of those three teams are March Madness bound, with the Cougars being a legitimate title contender, having held the title as the No. 1 team in the nation on multiple occasions this year.
The Gaels lost their two leading scorers from last season, but a combination of Logan Johnson, Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen, and Mitchell Saxon has filled in the gaps.
The brightest star, however, has been Aidan Mahaney, a freshman guard who has changed the trajectory of this team. Mahaney posts 15 points per game and is a shooting savant.
Everyone knows he is a sharpshooter, yet he still manages to hit well over 40% of his three-pointers.
Saint Mary’s has the best chance of knocking off the ‘Zags in the WCC Tournament. Its defense has ranked in the top ten in opponent eFG% (effective field goal percentage), defensive efficiency, and opponent points per game for most of the season.
The Gaels could counteract Gonzaga’s high-octane offense with a staggering and stifling defense. They are one of our favorite darkhorses heading into the postseason.
Has Santa Clara done anything remarkable this season? Not exactly. However, it has been solid in several games against incredibly tough competition, such as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
The Broncos lost to the Gaels by three points and the Bulldogs by five points. While those were both home games, it is still promising to see them hang around.
It can be easy to hang the brunt of a team’s responsibility on it best player, but that concept is exponentiated with the Broncos’ 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, Brandin Podziemski.
Podziemski leads Santa Clara in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game; he is also its best three-point shooter.
This team will live and die by how well Podziemski plays, which is often quite solid and why they are towards the top of the WCC.
The positive aspect of that is if he is playing his best ball, the Broncos have an outside chance of rattling off wins against teams like Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s.
Still, they would be considered a long shot to win the West Coast Conference.
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The University Credit Union West Coast Conference Tournament takes place from March 2, 2023, to March 7, 2023, for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Since 2009, the West Coast Conference Tournament has been held at Orleans Arena in Paradise, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. It is a neutral site; thus, no team gets an advantage.
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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