Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 2/29/12
Gonzaga Bulldogs are Underdogs at WCC Tournament

The Zappos.com West Coast Conference tournament kicks off today at the Orleans Arena.

Saint Mary’s is Favorite in WCC

The first game will feature the eighth-seed University of Portland (6-23, 3-13, WCC) matching up against the ninth-seed Santa Clara Broncos (8-21, 0-16, WCC). (9pm ET)

This year’s version of the conference tournament is anticipated to be the best in recent memory as Saint mary’s ended Gonzaga’s streak of 11 consecutive regular season championships.

The conference is loaded with quality teams as more than half of the WCC programs have legitimate chances of winning.

The top five seeds: Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, Brigham Young, Loyola Marymount, and San Francisco all have the ability to take this tournament and if Loyola Marymount wins the tournament there is an outside chance that the WCC could get four teams in the big dance.

The Favorite: Saint Marys (25-5, 14-2, WCC):

The Gaels are lead by conference assist leader WCC Player of the Year junior guard Matthew Dellavedova (6.6 apg). They also feature the only player to average a double-double in league play, Rob Jones (16.1 ppg, 11.3 rpg). The team led the league in field goal percentage (48.4 percent) and three-pointers made (7.2) and were consistently ranked in the AP top 25 all season long.

The Gaels are as balanced as any team on the Pacific coast. They are the favorites heading into Vegas and they should be.

Gonzaga (24-5, 13-3, WCC):

The all-WCC resembles a puppy litter withe the Gonzaga Bulldogs three players: junior forward Elias Harris, freshman guard (WCC Freshman of the Year)  Kevin Pangos, and senior center (WCC Defensive Player of the Year)  Robert Sacre all mentioned on the list. Inconsistent play in close games plagued the Bulldogs in their five losses.

That said, Gonzaga is the league’s hottest team heading down to Vegas as they have won seven of their last eight and have a conference-best three-game winning streak. Gonzaga has the best scoring defense (61.9 ppg) and trails Saint Mary’s by one-tenth of a point in scoring differential at 11.0 ppg.

With the Gaels snapping the Bulldogs reign, they have all of the motivation they need if they see Saint Mary’s in the final.

If Not Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s Who Else?

BYU (24-7, 12-4, WCC):

The third-seed Cougars feature all-conference forwards senior Noah Hartsock and junior Brandon Davies inside and and all-conference freshman guard Matt Carlino on the perimeter.

2012 WCC Conference Preview - Gonzaga is the league's hottest team heading down to Vegas

The squad has plenty of momentum going into the tournament, as they are  winners of six of their last seven, the lone loss coming February 23rd at Gonzaga, 74-63.  The Cougars lead the WCC in scoring (79.1 ppg) with Davies pacing the conference (18 ppg), which makes this squad dangerous going into the Orleans Arena.

If BYU fails to win the tournament, Cougar fans can rest assured that the team is likely a lock for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

Loyola Marymount (19-11, 11-5, WCC):

WCC Coach of the Year Max Good leads his fourth-seed Lions into the tournament as they close in on their first 20-win season since 1989-90. The team is lead by All-conference senior Drew Viney (15.4 ppg) and sophomore guard Anthony Ireland (16.7 ppg, 4.6 assists per game).

After going .500 last year in the WCC, LMU surprised a lot pf pundits. That said, the Lions proved they were for real with a win over the Gaels 75-60 in Moraga three weeks ago.

A WCC tournament championship is likely needed for an appearance for the big dance. If you are looking to bet on a shocker, the Lions would be a good pick.

San Francisco (18-12, 8-8, WCC):

I like coach Rex Walters’ squad, despite the fact they keep every game close, indicated by a +1.7 point-differential. They are led by all-WCC senior forward Angelo Caloiaro (15.3 ppg) and all-WCC honorable mention guard Rashad Green.

Their play has been inconsistent as of late, but their last three games were against the league’s top three seeds.

The lone win in the stretch came against Gonzaga at home 66-65.

For stat geeks looking for to believe in the fifth-seed Dons, here’s some: The team led the conference in turnover differential (+3.81 per game), a significant stat in close games.

CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE BULLDOGS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!

© Blair Thomas for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

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Post tags: 2012 WCC Conference Preview, all-WCC, Angelo Caloiaro, Anthony ireland, Brandon Davies, Brigham Young, Bulldogs, Bulldogs blog, BYU, Drew Viney, Elias Harris, Gonzaga, Gonzaga Blogs, Kevin Pangos, Las Vegas, Loyola Marymount, Matt Carlino, Matthew Dellavedova, Max Good, NCAA Tournament, Noah Hartsock, Orleans Arena, Rashad Green, Rex Walters, Rob Jones, Robert Sacre, San Francisco, Santa Clara, University of Portland, WCC, WCC Basketball, WCC Brackets, WCC Conference, WCC Schedule, WCC Seeds, WCC Tournament, West Coast Conference

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