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WCC Power Rankings: Gonzaga’s on top when it matters most

The Zags weren’t picked to finish first in the preseason. Entering the postseason, guess where they are.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 West Coast Conference regular season is in the books and the conference tournament tips off on Friday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. So, it’s time for our final WCC power rankings of the season.

Power Rankings

1. No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-4, 17-1 WCC)

Last week: W 77-72 at San Diego, W 79-65 at BYU
This week: March 3 vs. No. 9 Portland/No. 8 Loyola Marymount
Previous: First
WCC Tournament: 1 seed

Gonzaga locked up the top seed in the WCC Tournament with Saturday’s convincing road win over BYU. The Zags won the WCC regular season title outright as well. Mark Few’s squad has won at least a share of the regular season crown in all but two of his seasons at the helm, including 18 of the past 19 and the last six in a row.

Five Zags scored in double-figures in the win over San Diego and six reached that mark against BYU. This deep and balanced team will be the overwhelming favorite to win their sixth consecutive WCC Tournament Championship.

Gonzaga opens the WCC Tournament against the winner of the 8/9 game between Loyola Marymount and Portland. The Lions have been heating up down the stretch, but they lost both games this year against Gonzaga by an average of 24.5 points. Portland’s fared even worse, losing to Gonzaga by an average of 31 points.

2. No. 22 Saint Mary’s Gaels (27-4, 16-2)

Last week: W 75-61 vs. Pepperdine, W 67-40 vs. Santa Clara
This week: March 3 vs. No. 10 Pepperdine/No. 7 Santa Clara
Previous: Second
WCC Tournament: 2 seed

Saint Mary’s won both of its games last week, but because Gonzaga did the same, Saint Mary’s finds itself locked in the two spot in both the standings and WCC Tournament bracket.

That’s not the worst thing in the world, though. The Gaels will open the WCC Tournament against either Pepperdine or Santa Clara, and they just beat both of those squads last week. Santa Clara, the 7 seed, did manage to frustrate the Gaels a bit, though. The usually in-control Gaels had 11 turnovers to just nine assists Saturday against the Broncos.

3. BYU Cougars (22-9, 11-7)

Last week: W 72-60 at Portland, L 79-65 vs. No. 6 Gonzaga
This week: March 3 vs. San Diego
Previous: Third
WCC Tournament: 3 seed

Last week went as expected for the Cougars. They beat Portland on the road before falling at home to Gonzaga. Those results locked BYU into the three spot in both the standings and tournament bracket. In BYU’s seven years in the WCC, the Cougars have never finished outside of the top three. So all’s good, right?

Well...

They’ll open the WCC Tournament against a San Diego team that beat them 75-62 on Feb. 17. Obviously, for their NCAA Tournament hopes, every game in Vegas is a must-win. But it turns out their NIT hopes may be hanging in the balance as well. John Templon’s NIT Bracketology has BYU as a 6 seed, but firmly on the bubble and in danger of losing its at-large spot to an automatic qualifier. The last time the Cougars were left out of the NCAA Tournament and the NIT was way back in 2005 when they won just nine games.

4. San Francsico Dons (17-14, 9-9)

Last week: W 84-74 at Pacific, L 64-61 vs. San Diego
This week: March 3 vs. Pacific
Previous: Fourth
WCC Tournament: 4 seed

San Francisco was the preseason pick to finish fourth, and after a rocky year without their best player, Charles Minlend, the Dons managed to live up to expectations. With wins in five of their last seven games, San Francisco enters the WCC Tournament as hot as any team in the league. Frankie Ferrari has scored in double-figures in each of those games.

The Dons open the WCC Tournament against the 5 seed Pacific, a team they swept this season and beat by 10 points on the road last Thursday.

5. San Diego Toreros (18-12, 9-9)

Last week: L 77-72 vs. No. 6 Gonzaga, W 64-61 at San Francisco
This week: March 3 vs. BYU
Previous: Sixth
WCC Tournament: 6 seed

The Toreros were a tough team to rank this week. On the court, they’ve looked great lately. In their past three games, they’ve defeated BYU and San Francisco while nearly upsetting the sixth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Off the court though, things have been ugly. Head coach Lamont Smith was arrested on domestic violence charges on Sunday morning. He’s since been put on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the season.

This team started the season on a historic pace, stumbled through conference play, but had been recovering well. Until now. This weekend we’ll see what is more important: the coach or the players.

6. Loyola Marymount Lions (10-19, 5-13)

Last week: W 65-64 at Santa Clara, W 74-71 vs. Pacific
This week: March 2 vs. Portland
Previous: Eighth
WCC Tournament: 8 seed

This one is a bit unexpected.

After a nearly two full seasons of close games going wrong, things have started bouncing the Lions’ way. Back-to-back two-possession wins over teams above them in the standings have vaulted the Lions all the way up to the eight seed. So, not really all that far. Too little, too late, honestly. But still, this team has looked like it’s been rounding into form for a couple of weeks now, having gone 4-4 in February.

7. Santa Clara Broncos (11-19, 8-10)

Last week: L 65-64 vs. Loyola Marymount, L 67-40 at Saint Mary’s
This week: March 2 vs. Pepperdine
Previous: Sixth
WCC Tournament: 7 seed

The Broncos lost a pair of games last week, to surging Loyola Marymount and on the road at Saint Mary’s. So, not the best week, but also totally understandable. Unfortunately for Santa Clara, those results locked them out of a first-round bye. They’ll get a Waves team on Friday that is playing, basically, to make the Marty Wilson era last even one game longer. Tough draw.

8. Pacific Tigers (14-17, 9-9)

Last week: L 84-74 vs. San Francisco, L 74-71 at Loyola Marymount
This week: March 3 vs. San Francisco
Previous: Seventh
WCC Tournament: 5 seed

Pacific’s on a three-game losing streak, which isn’t ideal. Not one of the three teams to have defeated the Tigers during that span owns a winning record in WCC play, which also isn’t ideal.

The Tigers’ strong start to conference play kept them in the top half of the standings, but just barely. They’ll open the WCC Tournament against the San Francisco team that just last Thursday went to Stockton, won by 10, and jumped the Tigers in the standings.

9. Pepperdine Waves (5-25, 2-16)

Last week: L 75-64 at Saint Mary’s, W 75-64 vs. Portland
This week: March 2 vs. Santa Clara
Previous: 10th
WCC Tournament: 10 seed

Saturday’s senior night win over the Pilots did nothing to change Pepperdine’s position, but it is a feel-good story. Marty Wilson, who is being let go at the end of this season, got a win in his final game at Firestone Fieldhouse. I went into detail on Twitter about how Wilson’s firing is the most idiotic coaching move I’ve seen in seven seasons covering the WCC. So, it’s good to see him go out at home with a win. Let’s see if they can keep his job for a few more days in Vegas.

10. Portland Pilots (10-21, 4-14)

Last week: L 72-60 vs. BYU, L 75-64 at Pepperdine
This week: March 2 vs. Loyola Marymount
Previous: Ninth
WCC Tournament: 9 seed

The Pilots are heading to Vegas on a six-game losing streak. They’ll open the tournament against an LMU team that lost both of its games against Portland this season, but the Lions are playing their best basketball of the season at this point.