ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi thinks the WCC will be a two-bid league. We say, more than double it!
His latest bracket, released on Tuesday, has Gonzaga as the 2-seed in the West and San Francisco as an 11-seed in the East, landing a First Four game in Dayton. Is it possible that the league could send another team, or more, to the Big Dance? Well, considering Lunardi projects the piss-poor Pac-12 to land four spots, which is nuts, why can’t the WCC?!
The WCC has never sent more than three teams to the NCAA Tournament. It did so last in 2012, with three top-100 KenPom teams. And before that in 2008, with just two. Right now, the league has five. So, let’s consider all five to be in or around the broader at-large conversation. Here’s how they can go dancing.
Stay healthy. Simple as that. Win out and they’re a 1-seed for the third time since 2013.
San Francisco Dons
The Dons sit at 8-1 on the season. That one loss came against a Buffalo team that has been ranked in the AP Poll for most of the season and is currently projected to be a 5-seed in Lunardi’s bracket. Plus, it was by four points in Belfast, Northern Ireland. So, not bad at all.
None of their wins really move the needle much. But they do have a road win against Cal on their résumé. Even though I said earlier that the Pac-12 sucks, that’s still a road win over a Pac-12 team. It helps. They also have an upcoming date with Stanford at home on Dec. 22. That’s a very winnable game, and it would push the Dons to 2-0 against Pac-12 foes. Even though, they should be 3-0.
A home game against Arizona State — look at these home-and-homes! — was postponed due to wildfires last month. The Sun Devils are now No. 20 in the AP Poll, but appear unwilling to reschedule the game.
USF has cancelled their home game against Arizona State that is scheduled for tomorrow, a source told NBC Sports. ASU is concerned over the air quality due to the wildfires in the region. USF is considering chartering a flight to play in Tempe.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) November 16, 2018
The Sun Devils are scared.
Without that game on their résumé though, there will be little room for error going forward. San Francisco certainly looks the part of an NCAA Tournament team, but the West Coast Conference can be unforgiving for teams with light non-conference slates — see: Saint Mary’s 2018 and 2016. Any bad losses going forward could doom the Dons, and that’s unfortunate. But, at least we can blame it on the Sun Devils.
San Diego Toreros
San Francisco’s scheduling has been a thing of beauty, but so has San Diego’s. And, the Toreros have gotten a bit luckier than their Nor Cal counterparts.
Yes, the Toreros have two losses on the season to USF’s one, but both of those have come in true road games against power conference opponents (Washington and Mississippi). Wednesday night, against Oregon, the Toreros have another shot at a power five opponent on the road.
Starting center Yauhen Massalski was injured early in the game against Mississippi and hasn’t seen the floor since. The hope is that he’ll be back for tonight’s game against the Ducks. Up in Seattle, Massalski scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Toreros came up just three points shy of the Huskies. If he comes back tonight, and the Toreros win in Eugene, the selection committee will be forced to reevaluate the loss to Mississippi since he got injured just three minutes into the game.
Even if they come up short tonight, the Toreros are doing what the committee asks teams to do: travel. Six of their 14 non-conference games come away from home. Five of those are true-road games and the neutral court game comes against Washington State. Say what you will about the Cougars, but the Toreros will have faced four power conference teams — plus San Diego State — away from home by the time conference play rolls around.
That’s how you build a résumé.
Coming into this season I thought this would be the year BYU broke out of it’s NIT rut and ran back to the NCAA Tournament.
But, less than a month into the season I looked up and saw BYU sitting at 5-4 with nothing remotely close to a good win and a pair of head-scratching losses that have only gotten worse since.
Five wins, plus four losses, equals nine games. And that’s how long Nick Emery was suspended for to start the season. He’s back and the season’s turning around. So far, it’s not really because of him, but it counts for something.
After starting 5-4 the Cougars have picked up two quality wins. They beat a Utah State team that Lunardi has as his second team out and then a bad, but power conference-affiliated Utah team on a neutral. And they were impressive in both. Those wins aren’t enough to salvage the season, but there’s enough left on the slate to send the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
The Cougars have a “neutral” court game against UNLV this weekend at T-Mobile Arena, which is located a whopping two miles from UNLV’s campus. It’s literally down the street. Then, road trips to San Diego State and No. 18 Mississippi State (a projected 5-seed).
Saint Mary’s Gaels
I was initially not going to include the Gaels, who entered the month of December with a sub-.500 record. But, they’re 7-4 now and could potentially put together a résumé that is as good or better than every team on this list except for Gonzaga.
Yes, the perennially poor-scheduling Gaels have actually built a schedule that, if this wasn’t a rebuilding year, would more than likely land them in the big dance. It has true road games against New Mexico State (win) and Western Kentucky (Dec. 22), two solid mid-major programs. It has neutral site games against Utah State, Mississippi State, New Mexico and LSU. The Gaels blew their first two shots, though, and New Mexico isn’t anything this year. So this weekend’s game against LSU in Las Vegas is critical.
If Saint Mary’s can finish off the non-con without taking another loss, Randy Bennett’s team will be one win over Gonzaga away from at-large consideration. That’s unlikely, but it’s certainly possible.