No. 3 San Francisco Dons vs. No. 6 San Diego Toreros
Watch: BYUtv, BYUtvSports.com, Noon.
The Dons, 20-10 (13-5), have one of the most powerful offenses in the offensive minded WCC. In conference play, only BYU (115.8) and Gonzaga (111.0) have a higher offensive efficiency than San Francisco's (109.8). San Diego struggles, relative to the Dons, with an offensive rating of just 103.7.
San Francisco's offensive prowess comes from an equal balance of explosive athleticism (read: lots of dunks) and technically sound shooters.
San Diego, 16-15 (7-11), is a more defensively capable team than most in the WCC that knows how to derail a good offense. In a victory over Saint Mary's on January 30th, the Toreros' defense held the Gaels to their lowest point total in ten years. Gonzaga scored 66 points in a loss to the Toreros, the fourth lowest scoring output from the Zags on the season. BYU had a major scare from the Toreros, who held the fast paced Cougars six possessions below their season average.
No. 2 BYU Cougars vs. No. 10 Loyola Marymount Lions
Watch: BYUtv, BYUtvSports.com, 2:00 PM.
The Cougars, 21-10 (13-5), are fast, ranking sixth nationally in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted tempo rankings. But, they don't average 14 points per game above the national average just because they have a lot of possessions. BYU's offense takes a lot of shots, and makes a lot of shots. With an offensive rating of 115.8 they rank first in the WCC.
Mid-season struggles led to a series of line-up changes. Dave Rose seems to have figured out which groupings work best, as his team is playing its best basketball now, in March. Most importantly, the defense has tightened up with the increased presence of Anson Winder who started in the last three games of the season and is from Las Vegas.
Loyola Marymount, 13-18 (4-14), might be last in the standings and maybe shouldn't have made it to the quarterfinals. But, they have, and BYU fans should be worried. The Lions know how to beat the Cougars, because they have (87-76 on December 28th), and they know how to make an improbable run as the worst seed in the WCC Tournament, because they won three games here last year.
Also, you can't let the Lions' record fool you. This program is hit, seemingly every year, with the most injuries in Division I. With just six men, the Lions nearly upset San Francisco in the season finale. They've got a few players back now, most notably forward Gabe Levin who was out with a concussion.
Head coach Max Good is an emotional leader -he was brought to tears in last night's press conference when asked about the resolve of his players- who knows how to get a depleted squad to give 110% when they have far less. On the court, senior guard Anthony Ireland is the leader, and not just because his 2,150 points are 51 shy of second all time at LMU.
No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 9 Santa Clara Broncos
Watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN, 6:00 PM
The Zags, 25-6 (15-3), are in their traditional position atop the conference. However, non-conference schedule left much to be desired. Traditionally brutal, this year it could be resume wrecking. Pressure to win the tournament has almost never been greater for Gonzaga, save for maybe the 2010-2011 season when Saint Mary's was finally capable of unseating the Zags. Except, that year, the Zags had a non-conference resume far greater than this.
Other than the odd resume, things are pretty much as usual for the Zags. Highly efficient and balanced offensive play. Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell can shoot the ball from anywhere while David Stockton feeds the post just about as well as his dad. Speaking of the post, Sam Dower (61.1%) and Przemek Karnowski (58.9%) rank second and fourth respectively in the WCC in field goal percentage.
Santa Clara, 14-18 (6-12), had a rebuilding season. I'm using the word "had" because they're starting to get it together. Seven straight losses in the middle of the season have given way to a 3-3 home stretch (4-3 counting the WCC Tournament).
Freshman guard Jared Brownridge (17.0ppg, 3rd WCC) earned Newcomer of the Year honors. He's joined in the backcourt by junior guard Brandon Clark who also averages 17.0ppg. Those two, along with Jerry Brown and Evan Roquemore, scored in double figures against the Tigers in their tournament opener.
Gonzaga fans should be worried about this game because it took a last second Sam Dower three for the Zags to escape Santa Clara with a two point victory.
No. 4 Saint Mary's Gaels vs. No. 5 Pepperdine Waves
Watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN, 8:00 PM
The Gaels, 21-10 (11-7), are in unfamiliar territory. Fourth place in the WCC and on Gonzaga's side of the tournament bracket. That means a sixth consecutive tournament final meeting between the Zags and Gaels isn't in the cards. But, this is one of the nation's premier mid-major programs, so they're still dangerous.
Junior forward Brad Waldow and senior point guard Stephen Holt earned all-WCC first team honors. Waldow is the the key to the offense, a big physical forward with nice touch. But it's Holt and his back-court that makes the team go. The guards are veteran players that should have little problem with the young Waves.
Pepperdine, 15-15 (8-10), can challenge the Gaels up front. Senior forward Brendan Lane leads the conference in blocks with 2.4 per game. Stacy Davis, last season's WCC Newcomer of the Year, is averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Both are team highs.
They'll have little problem going up against the Gaels' bigs not named Brad Waldow.