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WCC Power Rankings: Conference Tournament Edition

Lady Luck loves the Zags down in Las Vegas

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at St. Mary’s
Brandon Clarke and the Zags look to keep their winning ways rolling in Las Vegas.
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The final WCC Power Rankings of the season are upon us. This week will mark the end of the season for a handful of these teams, though the majority of the league has legitimate postseason aspirations. What happens this week in Vegas will decide who goes where down the road in March.

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-2, 16-0)
Last week: W 86-66 at Pacific, W 69-55 at Saint Mary’s
This week: Bye into WCC Tournament Semis vs. TBD (Monday)
Previous: First
Seed: 1

The Zags are 23-2 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena in 2009 and have a 17-game winning streak in the event.

Gonzaga gets over a week off to prepare for postseason play. Not that the Zags really need it: They’re undefeated in conference play this season with an average margin of victory of 27 points per game. That’s the largest average margin of victory in West Coast Conference history. They’ve also won 29 or more games for the fifth time in the past six seasons — that 28-win Sweet Sixteen team from 2016 sure sticks out like a sore thumb. Prior to this run, Gonzaga reached 29 wins on just two occasions and never once surpassed it.

Also, shout out to my dad, George. He used to be a sportscaster in Las Vegas during the Tark years. Before that, when he was my age, he was an Angeleno at the time of John Wooden. His first-hand knowledge of the game goes back much farther than mine, but we’re in agreement that this is the best college team we’ve ever seen. He’s pretty sure he convinced my mom — hi mom — to buy Final Four tickets.

Looking ahead: Gonzaga is basically a lock for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. According to KenPom, the Zags are the only team in the country to rank in the top-ten of both effective field goal percentage (No. 1) and effective field goal percentage defense (No. 7). If somebody could figure out how to stop that never-ending highlight loop of Zion Williamson dunking, or sitting on the bench, the Bulldogs might just wind up as the favorite to cut down nets in Minneapolis next month.

2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (20-11, 11-5)
Last week: W 65-48 vs. Portland, L 69-55 vs. No. 1 Gonzaga
This week: Bye into WCC Tournament Semis vs. TBD (Monday)
Previous: Second
Seed: 2

The Gaels are 13-8 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena. They are the only team other than Gonzaga to win the event at that venue.

Saint Mary’s, by virtue of a season split with San Francisco, was the winner of the three-team race for the two seed. Their reward? Not having to face Gonzaga until an NCAA Tournament berth is on the line.

Looking ahead: The Gaels are currently the fifth team out of the bracket, according to Bracket Matrix. Climbing into the field from that spot will probbaly require, in all honesty, winning the automatic bid. But the Gaels in years past have been one of the teams that passes the eye test but gets snubbed because of the metrics. With this season’s introduction of the NET rankings, the metrics are on their side. They could win some games in March, and they probably will as a home team in the NIT.

3. BYU Cougars (19-12, 11-5)
Last week: W 87-73 vs. San Diego
This week: Bye into the WCC Tournament Quarterfinals vs. TBD (Saturday)
Previous: Third
Seed: 3

The Cougars are 9-7 all-time in the WCC Tournament. They have appeared in three tournament finals (2014, 2015, 2018) and lost to Gonzaga each time.

In the new WCC Tournament format, the Cougars will get a bye into the WCC Quarterfinals. Their potential opponents are either Portland, Santa Clara or San Diego. The Cougars have not lost to any of those teams this season. Actually, by snagging the three seed rather than the four, the bracket broke well for BYU. San Francisco and Gonzaga, the only teams to sweep BYU this season, aren’t on the Cougars’ side of the bracket. A match-up with Saint Mary’s, which went 1-1 versus BYU this season, awaits whichever team comes out of BYU’s quarterfinal.

Looking ahead: John Templon’s most recent NIT Bracketology has BYU as a five seed. I’m not too familiar with NIT Bracketology, but a five seems comfortably in and spot on for the Cougars right now; BYU was a six seed last season. More important, in my opinion, is the Cougars’ next win. BYU has won 20-plus games in each of Dave Rose’s previous 13 seasons in Provo. At this point in the season, that streak will remain in jeopardy until it isn’t.

4. Loyola Marymount Lions (20-10, 8-8)
Last week: W 72-70 vs. Santa Clara, W 74-69 at San Francisco
This week: Friday, March 8 vs. Pepperdine/Pacific
Previous: Sixth
Seed: 5

The Lions are 9-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena. Their best performance in the venue was in 2013, as the lowest seed in the tournament, when they tripled their conference win total (1-15) and advanced to the semifinals before falling to Gonzaga.

LMU enters the WCC Tournament on a three game winning streak, with two of those victories coming away from home. Their most recent victory, an upset over San Francisco on the road, put the Lions and Dons on a crash course to meet on Saturday, should LMU take care of business the night before. The two teams met only once this season, due to the WCC’s new scheduling format.

Looking ahead: The Lions are a 20-win team for the first time since 2012. They made the CIT that season, which seems about right for this year’s team. Should they win a couple games in Vegas, though, the CBI may come calling.

5. San Francisco Dons (21-9, 9-7)
Last week: L 91-90 (OT) vs. San Diego, L 74-69 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: Bye into the WCC Quarterfinals vs. TBD (Saturday)
Previous: Third
Seed: 4

The Dons are 6-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena. The last time they won more than one game was in 2012.

Three straight losses, for the second time in just over a month, and the Dons are trending in the wrong direction at the worst possible time. This time last week San Francisco sat in third place, but controlled its own destiny in the race for the two seed. Now, they’re the four, and that means they’re on Gonzaga’s side of the bracket.

Looking ahead: John Templon’s most recent bracketology has San Francisco as a three seed in the NIT, which, in all honesty, is very good for a team that is just two games above .500 in WCC play. But they were an NCAA at-large team as recently as late January. If their losing streak stretches to four games, and maybe even if it doesn’t, they could easily be dropping out of the NIT.

6. Santa Clara Broncos (16-14, 8-8)
Last week: L 72-70 at Loyola Marymount, W 78-62 at Portland
This week: Friday, March 8 vs. San Diego/Portland
Previous: Fifth
Seed: 6

The Broncos are 6-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena. They’ve never won more than one game in a single tournament in that span.

As I’ve been saying for months now, it’s absolutely insane that Santa Clara is in this position. This team, that started the season 0-4 and has one of the thinnest rosters in college basketball, can not finish worse than .500 on the season. It’s amazing. Tahj Eaddy and Josip Vrankic are stars in the making on this team.

Looking ahead: I know postseason tournaments like the CBI and CIT aren’t glamorous. And I’d never fault a school for turning down an invitation to them on financial grounds — seriously, charging teams upwards of $30,000 is to get into the field is absurd. That said, I hope Santa Clara takes a bid. This team’s resiliency deserves to be rewarded.

7. San Diego Toreros (18-13, 7-9)
Last week: W 91-90 (OT) at San Francisco, L 87-73 at BYU
This week: Thursday, March 7 vs. Portland
Previous: Eighth
Seed: 7

The Toreros are 5-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena. They haven’t won a game in the event since 2013.

Last week was San Diego in a nutshell. The Toreros showed their talent, grit and ability with a stunning 91-90 comeback victory in overtime on the road against San Francisco. They then got shellacked at BYU and landed in the opening round of the WCC Tournament. This team absolutely should not be playing on Thursday, but they also very well could be the first WCC team that loses to Portland this season.

Looking ahead: San Diego is five games above .500 on the season and has a senior-heavy group of starters who are capable of making a deep run in either the CIT or CBI.

8. Pacific Tigers (14-17, 4-12)
Last week: L 86-66 vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, W 73-72 at Pepperdine
This week: Thursday, March 7 vs. Pepperdine
Previous: Ninth
Seed: 9

The Tigers are 1-4 in the WCC Tournament at Orleans Arena. Their lone win came against Pepperdine in 2017.

Coming back to the West Coast Conference hasn’t led to much success for the Tigers, especially inside of league play. This season, Pacific started 10-5 at the end of non-conference play. They’ve won just four games since. Pacific hasn’t finished above .500 in WCC play since returning the the league in 2013-2014. The bright spot? They swept Pepperdine, their first round opponent, this season.

Looking ahead: I wouldn’t. This program appeared to be trending in the right direction after last season, but now it seems stuck in the cellar once again.

9. Pepperdine Waves (13-17, 6-10)
Last week: L 73-72 vs. Pacific
This week: Thursday, March 7 vs. Pacific
Previous: Seventh
Seed: 8

The Waves are 5-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena.

Pepperdine is coming off a loss to Pacific, a team that swept the Waves this season, and heading into an elimination game against Pacific. Unfortunately, it’s not actually hard to beat the same team three times in a season.

Looking ahead: Win five games in Vegas and go to the NCAA Tournament or finish the season with a sub-.500 record. Barring transfers, next season looks to be much better.

10. Portland Pilots (7-24, 0-16)
Last week: L 65-48 at Saint Mary’s, L 78-62 vs. Santa Clara
This week: Thursday, March 7 vs. San Diego
Previous: Tenth
Seed: 10

The Pilots are 5-10 in the WCC Tournament since it moved to Orleans Arena.

Portland has lost the last 17 games. Not surprisingly, they’re the first winless team in WCC play since 2012.

Looking ahead: This is a young team, so there’s that.