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Stage set for epic WCC semifinals

As the season progressed, the WCC proved to be among the best mid-major conferences, which sets the stage for two exciting semifinal matchups

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at St. Mary’s
A win in the semifinals would secure Gonzaga’s place in the WCC championship game for a 25th straight season.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – The WCC Tournament is no longer a bracket to find out which team will lose to Gonzaga in the championship game. As this season wore on, the depth of the conference became apparent, which sets the stage for two entertaining semifinal matchups tonight.

Gonzaga, the top-ranked team in the country, faces off against San Francisco, and Saint Mary’s, who’s currently ranked 17th, matches up with Santa Clara.

The Zags raced through conference play but were ultimately tripped up by the Gaels 67-57 in the regular season finale. It marked their first conference loss in more than two years and snapped a 34-game winning streak against WCC foes.

Saint Mary’s suffered an inauspicious start to conference play. Three of the Gaels first five games were postponed, and they split the two games they did play. From that point forward, they won 11 of their final 13 games with the two losses coming at Gonzaga and at Santa Clara.

Santa Clara has been the surprise team this season. The Broncos were slated to finish sixth in the preseason poll. Their only losses came at the hands of the other three teams in the semifinals. They split their two meetings with the Gaels thanks to a five-point win in February and an eight-point loss in January.

San Francisco finished fourth in the conference, just a half game behind Santa Clara. The Dons won their first 10 games of the season. Outside of two losses apiece to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, they won 10 of 12 conference games, including a pair of wins over the Broncos.

The four semifinalists featured 13 of the 16 players named to the All-WCC First and Second Teams, including nine of the 10 on the First Team. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s split the five individual awards.

Zags star Drew Timme was the Player of the Year. Fellow big man Chet Holmgren was named Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. For the Gaels, Randy Bennett received Coach of the Year honors, and Tommy Kuhse was recognized as the Sixth Man of the Year.

Schedule:

9 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 4 San Francisco vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

DraftKings Spread: Gonzaga -14.5, O/U 154

11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 3 Santa Clara vs. No. 2 Saint Mary’s

DraftKings Spread: Saint Mary’s -4.5, O/U 138