Before getting into this allow me to explain the methodology behind what is laid out below.
RPI figures are current as of February 21. The records for this season are predicted through the WCC Tournament using the expected winner of remaining regular-season games according to KenPom's metrics. Teams were then seeded based upon that extrapolation with the higher seed advancing in each game, to make this exercise simple and objective. Records for past teams include regular season and WCC Tournament games only, so they differ from end-of-season records. I've defined a bad loss here as a loss to a team below 150 in the RPI.
With that sorted out I put the predicted 2015 resumes into an historical context so to answer the question of how these tournament selection committees traditionally view teams coming from the West Coast Conference. This way the question isn't "are they worthy" but rather do they fit the mold set by previous teams.
Now, can a WCC team earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament? Here's how this year's crop of hopefuls compares to the previous at-large teams since BYU joined the league for the 2012 season.
That doesn't look good at all.
If any of this year's three teams get an at-large they would do so with the worst RPI of WCC at-large teams in the BYU era — though there is still time for Saint Mary's or Gonzaga to improve and perhaps finish with a better RPI than 2012 BYU. So, that's a problem. The other obvious deficiency is in strength of schedule. Once again 2012 BYU comes closest to resembling this year's group, but even that team had a better SOS than any of this year's group.
The problem with being not quite as good as that 2012 BYU team is that 2012 BYU team was just barely good enough. BYU, according to the Selection Committee's s-curve, was the second to last at-large to make the cut.
So, do any of these teams have a shot? Probably not. But for now let's eliminate BYU from contention. The Cougars, in the simulation I ran, picked up two more wins over Gonzaga (in Provo and in Las Vegas) but fell to Saint Mary's in the championship game. That won't cut it for the Cougars.
But it could for either other team.
If Gonzaga bucks the numbers and makes the WCC Tournament final and falls to Saint Mary's they could squeak in. The Zags would be 4-8 against the RPI top-100 instead of 2-9 in that scenario. But even that's pushing it. Saint Mary's path is rockier because as the one seed they won't get the chance to play an RPI top-100 team in any scenario until the WCC Tournament final. In which case a win takes them out of the running and a loss doesn't do much to help their case.
The WCC's NCAA Tournament picture is as bleak as it's been in the BYU era, but the NIT picture looks better than ever.
It's entirely possible that all four of those teams above end up in the NIT, though that would require a dark horse getting hot and stealing the WCC auto-bid.
Saint Mary's, BYU and Gonzaga are all but locks to get an invitation to the NIT. Though, as was the case with the NCAA teams, they take a hit due to a lack of not just wins against RPI top-50 teams but lack of games against them.
Pepperdine is the team to focus on here, because the Waves have some work to do. The only reason they're in consideration is because of that 4-6 record against the RPI top-100 — the simulation has them falling to Saint Mary's in the WCC Tournament semis, but remember that the Waves swept the Gaels this season. They're probably on the wrong side of the NIT bubble here, but with help they could get in.
The NIT, for those who aren't aware, gives an automatic bid to every conference regular season champion (Saint Mary's, right now). Unlike the NCAA Tournament which has 32 auto bids every year, the NIT's number varies. Should Saint Mary's fail to earn the WCC auto-bid (say, Pepperdine knocks the Gaels of in the semis) and misses out on an at-large as well then the Gaels will have a guaranteed spot in the NIT.
Same goes for every other conference in the country. So, Waves fans, don't root for upsets when you're watching conference tournaments. Think back to last year and Murray State. The Racers missed out on the OVC auto-bid despite running the table in conference play. That's a textbook case of NIT bid-thievery.
What if that were to happen in the WCC? What if, say, Santa Clara got hot and won the WCC Tournament? I could see all four of these teams making the NIT, and that's crazy. That's how the WCC has been this year. No great team, but a good top four.