Turk’s Take: 2013 West Coast Conference Tournament Preview

TurkThe 2013 West Coast Conference Tournament is about two teams – Gonzaga and St. Mary’s.  One is playing for their tournament seed and the other is playing for their tournament life.  However, before they play in the championship final.  Let’s take a look at how the earlier games should fare:

Wednesday – First Round

Loyola Marymount (1-13 – WCC record) vs. Portland (4-12)

Two of the nation’s worst shooting teams square off.  LMU led at halftime in both matchups during the regular season only to let the games get away in the second half.  The team that rebounds and defends better will win the rubber match.  It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, and given the Lions’ effort in their last six games where they could have been 4-2 vs. 0-6, they should win in a mild upset on a neutral floor.

Thursday – Second Round

San Diego (7-9) vs. Pepperdine (4-12)

The Toreros swept the season series vs. the Waves.  USD’s conference schedule was not kind by way of travel, and it showed.  Coach Bill Grier’s squad put together a streak of four wins, followed by five losses, then two wins, followed by five losses before beating Pep in the regular season finale on Saturday.  Pepperdine has had moments where they played really good basketball, but it has been in short stretches.  Their four wins were only against LMU and UP, the bottom two teams in the conference.  If USD doesn’t look past the Waves, they should win.

San Francisco (7-9) vs. LMU/Portland winner

As winners of 5 of their last 7 conference games, USF could surprise everyone in the WCC tournament.  Certainly, the Dons don’t want to see Loyola Marymount again.  USF gave away a 20-point lead at LMU two weeks ago before winning on a last-second layup.  These two teams have seen much drama in recent years.  On the other hand, Portland and San Francisco split the season series in two games decided by three points or less.  Rex Walters’ team has been shooting the lights out from behind the arc where they lead the conference in 3-pt. shooting.  However, USF will have to rebound better if they want to advance.  USF has the better team and should win, but both LMU and Portland are capable of making this a huge upset.

Friday – Quarterfinals

Santa Clara (9-7) vs. USF/LMU/Portland winner

The Broncos are playing with a chip on their shoulder after going 0-16 in WCC play a year ago to finish 4th as most predicted they would.  This is a veteran team that must win at least one tournament game to validate their season and give them strong consideration for an NIT bid.  None of the possible opponents should give Santa Clara any trouble.  The Lions and Pilots will be gassed after playing two tough games prior to this one, and the Dons didn’t show enough rebounding and muscle to contend in either of their two losses to the Broncos.

BYU (10-6) vs. USD/Pepperdine winner

The Cougars were picked to finish 3rd by most publications, but were expected to give Gonzaga and St. Mary’s more of a challenge.  Instead, Dave Rose’s team lost six times in conference and is headed to Las Vegas with four losses in their final six WCC games.  Both the Toreros and Waves split with the Cougars, but this is a veteran team who has their eye on an NIT bid after there was talk of an NCAA bid just one month ago.  BYU advances here.

Saturday – Semifinals

Gonzaga (16-0) vs. Santa Clara

Can Gonzaga be tripped up by Santa Clara?  Sure.  Will they?  Absolutely not.  Mark Few and his Zags have been here before.  They are accustomed to the extra rest and don’t get distracted by the never-ending party in Vegas.  This will be Gonzaga’s first game as the #1-ranked team in the land.  Don’t expect a GU letdown.  No matter how ready the Broncos think they are, the Bulldogs will win this one by double digits.

St. Mary’s (14-2) vs. BYU

So much is at stake for Randy Bennett and his program right now.  They will be scrutinized the rest of the way for the NCAA violations announced this week.  Then, they will be under the microscope for a soft non-conference schedule.  Finally, their Bracketbuster win over Creighton looked to be a bust until the BlueJays ran off four wins in a row to claim the Missouri Valley crown and boost the Gaels’ RPI.  I think it’s likely that they need to reach the WCC Championship to make their case for an NCAA tournament bid.  BYU would like nothing more than to play the spoiler, but the Gaels will prevail in a close game.

Monday – Final

A Gonzaga-St. Mary’s final is what everyone expects and will get.  The St. Mary’s frontcourt has not been able to slow down their Gonzaga counterparts, and the Zags will be too much for the Gaels who don’t have as much offensive firepower as they did last year.  GU will roll to another West Coast Conference Tournament title.

 

TURK’S POSTSEASON HONORS

2013 All-West Coast Conference Team

Brandon Davies                       BYU

Matthew Dellavedova            St. Mary’s

Johnny Dee                              San Diego

Cole Dickerson                        San Francisco

Kevin Foster                            Santa Clara

Elias Harris                              Gonzaga

Tyler Haws                              BYU

Anthony Ireland                      Loyola Marymount

Kelly Olynyk                            Gonzaga

Marc Trasolini                          Santa Clara

 

2013 All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention

Chris Anderson                      San Diego

Matt Carlino                           BYU

Stacy Davis                             Pepperdine

Cody Doolin                             San Francisco

Stephen Holt                           St. Mary’s

Lorne Jackson                         Pepperdine

Ryan Nicholas                         Portland

Kevin Pangos                           Gonzaga

It was a tough call on whether to put Nicholas or Dee on the first team.  The USD shooter gets a lot of attention, but like all of the good former Pilot forwards before him who have played for Coach Reveno, Nicholas does all of the dirty work and plays hard.  Both will continue to get better and improve their squads next year.

2013 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year

Yannick Atanga                                   Santa Clara

Atanga quietly had a solid sophomore campaign playing alongside Trasolini.  If he develops an offensive game and learns to stay out of foul trouble, he will be hard to stop next year.

2013 West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year

Stacy Davis                              Pepperdine

Davis scored in double figures in 8 of his last 9 conference games and had two double-doubles in that span.  He will be a player to watch next year.

2013 West Coast Conference Coach of the Year

Mark Few                               Gonzaga

You can say that Kerry Keating went from 0-16 to 9-7, but that is what everyone expected.  The Zags steamrolled everyone and ran the table with a perfect conference record.  Coach Few deserves another trophy.

2013 West Coast Conference Co-Players of the Year

Matthew Dellavedova            St. Mary’s
Kelly Olynyk                            Gonzaga

This will probably not happen or be a popular decision in Spokane if it does.  Despite the year Olynyk had, Delly put the Gaels on his back, and without a solid supporting cast, St. Mary’s only lost two conference games.  Olynyk shocked WCC fans with the progress he made while redshirting last year.  I would be surprised if he returned for his senior season.

 

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