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2015 West Coast Conference Tournament Preview

The WCC Tournament gets underway Friday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Here's what you need to know.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

All season long the WCC looked like Gonzaga and then everybody else. That was until the Zags' regular-season finale, at home, against BYU in which the Cougars pulled off one of this season's biggest wins. So now the league's ten teams convene in Las Vegas knowing the Zags aren't invincible, which should make for four days of great games.

This marks the second time since entering the WCC in the 2011-12 season that BYU and Gonzaga are on opposite sides of the bracket. Last year was the first time, and the two teams met in the WCC Tournament Championship which Gonzaga won 75-64.

While all teams are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth, some teams have other postseason aspirations on the back burner.

Gonzaga, with an early exit, may fall (undeservedly, if I may editorialize for a moment) out of contention for a two seed. With a championship the Zags could, if things break right around the bracket, return to the top line. BYU is on the bubble, and likely on the right side thanks to a victory over Gonzaga, but has little wiggle room and can't afford an early exit. Saint Mary's resume isn't up to snuff, once again, and is clearly in auto-bid or bust territory. A deep run in Vegas would improve the Gaels seeding in the NIT. Pepperdine and Portland will have a shot to impress the CBI and CIT while San Diego looks to stay at or above .500 and in the running for a post season berth.

Schedule

All times Pacific.

Friday, March 6

8 San Francisco Dons (13-17) vs. 9 Pacific Tigers (12-18)
6 p.m.
TV: BYUtv, TheW.tv

7 Santa Clara Broncos (13-17) vs. 10 LMU Lions (8-22)
8 p.m.
TV: BYUtv, TheW.tv

Saturday, March 7

3 Saint Mary's Gaels (21-8) vs. 6 Portland Pilots (16-14)
12 p.m.
TV: TWC SportsNet, CSN California, ROOT Northwest, BYUtv, TheW.tv

4 Pepperdine Waves (17-12) vs. 5 San Diego Toreros (15-15)
2 p.m.
TV: TWC SportsNet, CSN California, ROOT Northwest, BYUtv, TheW.tv

1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. San Francisco/Pacific
6 p.m.
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN

3 BYU Cougars vs. Santa Clara/LMU
8 p.m.
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN

Monday, March 9

Gonzaga/San Francisco/Pacific vs. Pepperdine/San Diego
6 p.m.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN

BYU/Santa Clara/LMU vs. Saint Mary's/Portland
8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN2, WatchESPN

Tuesday, March 10

WCC Tournament Championship Game
6 p.m.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN

The Favorite

Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Zags, despite coming off a loss which capped a month of rather uninspired play, are the overwhelming favorite in Vegas.

Gonzaga is 17-1 in conference play, 29-2 overall and no. 7 in the polls. No other WCC team comes close.

The WCC's recently released honors and all-conference teams reflected that dominance. Mark Few won coach of the year, Kevin Pangos won player of the year, Gary Bell Jr. won defensive player of the year and Kyle Wiltjer won newcomer of the year. Pangos, Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski were named to the all-WCC first team. Bell Jr., Domantas Sabonis and Byron Wesley earned second team honors.

So this team has everything it needs to win, again, and something that doesn't help at all but is worth mentioning. They've got history on their side. The Zags have made the tournament final in each of Mark Few's previous 15 seasons at the helm. During that span they've won 11 titles, including the previous two. Gonzaga's four-year back-court duo of Pangos and Bell have lost just once in the conference tournament, as freshmen against Saint Mary's in the final.

The Contenders

BYU Cougars

No surprises in this category. Only one team has proven able to take down the Zags in WCC play and that team happens to be the team seeded number two in the tournament. Meaning, they won't have to face Gonzaga until the final.

Gonzaga can claim the highest field goal percentage in college basketball (52.7%) but that's for nerds. BYU scores more points than any team in the country, 84.4 per game. And now the Cougars know for certain they can outscore the Zags.

Keep your eyes on junior point guard Kyle Collinsworth. He's already tallied five triple-doubles this season, which is an NCAA single-season record. His next will tie the career record of six, held currently by Shaq (LSU) and Michael Anderson (Drexel).

Saint Mary's Gaels

Saint Mary's and Gonzaga has been one of the game's best rivalries of the past decade. Over the last couple of seasons it's cooled somewhat, mostly because the Zags have won the past eight meetings. Recently the Gonzaga/BYU games have started to overshadow the Zags and Gaels games. So it's quite fitting that for Saint Mary's to get a shot at their arch-rival the Gaels need to go through BYU's side of the bracket first.

The Darkhorses

Pepperdine Waves

The Waves took it to Gonzaga in their first meeting of the season, a loss by two points in Malibu, and then again in Spokane, though they would end up losing that game by eight. The Waves have struggled a bit since losing point guard Amadi Udenyi for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon on February 12. That said, Udenyi didn't play in either game against Gonzaga.

Pepperdine is a team that could just as easily lose its opener as it could win the whole thing. Marty Wilson's Waves have struggled against inferior teams — a 7-5 record against teams below them in the standings, with losses to San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Clara and Portland. But when they play the big boys the young Waves really come to play — wins over BYU (twice) and Saint Mary's, along with the two close contests against Gonzaga.

LMU Lions

Okay, this is a joke but, the Lions seem to have some kind of weird voodoo magic to them when they take the court at Orleans Arena.

In the two previous tournaments the Lions have posted a combined 4-2 record despite being the lowest seed in both years. 2013's trip to Vegas was especially impressive, as the one-win-in-conference-play Lions upset Portland, San Francisco and Santa Clara before falling to the AP No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in the semifinals.