Saint Mary's Favored to Win the West Coast Conference Tournament
The West Coast Conference tournament is back in Las Vegas on March 2, when nine teams will be looking to prevent Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs from winning this thing for the 10th time in 11 years. The Zags have also won this tournament three times in a row, but this conference is only getting stronger. During the regular season, Saint Mary’s was actually a better team than Gonzaga was, according KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin — and the oddsmakers that priced this tournament. The conference also has quite a few teams that are good enough to pull off an upset or two this week. That should make you rather excited to see how things unfold in Sin City. Keep reading to get our thoughts on how the tournament will play out — and how you should bet it!
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How to Watch the West Coast Conference Tournament
When: March 2-7
Where: Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Format: Teams seeded by record within the conference; top-two teams get byes all the way through to the semifinals
Watch: Regional Sports Networks, WCC Network, BYUtv, ESPN & ESPN2; Championship Game on ESPN on Mar. 7 at 9 p.m. ET
West Coast Conference Tournament Seeds, Teams and Odds
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (-105)
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (-115)
3. Santa Clara Broncos (+5000)
4. Loyola Marymount Lions (+10000)
5. BYU Cougars (+5000)
6. San Francisco Dons (+10000)
7. Pacific Tigers (+100000)
8. Portland Pilots (+50000)
9. San Diego Toreros (+100000)
10. Pepperdine Waves (+50000)
Favorite To Win West Coast Conference Tournament
The last time Gonzaga didn’t claim at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular season title was back in 2011-12, when Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary’s were the top seed — and also went on to win the conference tournament. This year, the Bulldogs were able to claim the top spot in the conference for the 11th time in a row, but the Gaels are the betting favorites entering this tournament. At -115 odds, they have the slightest edge over a Gonzaga team that was ranked second in the AP’s pre-season rankings. The Bulldogs also earned a 77-68 home win over the Gaels in the final game of the regular season, but that wasn’t enough to scare off the oddsmakers.
West Coast Conference Tournament Darkhorse
BYU’s poor regular season is going to make for a tough path to winning the West Coast Conference tournament, but it’s hard not to view the Cougars as something of a value play here. BYU was competitive in road losses to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in February, and those are the two strongest teams in the conference. Playing on a neutral court could level the playing field. The Cougars are also third in the conference in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metric, and BYU’s 40th-ranked defense is the catalyst for that. In tournaments like these, teams with great defenses are never quite out of things. That makes it reasonable to believe the Cougars can make a run — especially if one of the team’s perimeter players can get hot and help out forward Fousseyni Traore, who is an absolute bull around the basket.
Players to Watch in West Coast Conference Tournament
If you’re a fan of college basketball, it’s impossible not to know Gonzaga’s Drew Timme. The big man is averaging 21.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Zags, and he has arguably been the best low-post player in college basketball for three consecutive seasons. The Zags also have an excellent wing in Julian Strawther, who is averaging 15.4 points per game and looks the part of a future NBA player.
There is, however, some talent outside of Spokane. Heading into this week, two players that demand your attention are Saint Mary’s freshman Aidan Mahaney and Santa Clara sophomore Brandin Podziemski.
Mahaney has been stellar for the Gaels this year, averaging 14.6 points per game and shooting 40.9 percent from deep. He’s the type of player that can get hot and swing games in a hurry. Meanwhile, Podziemski has been better than advertised after having transferred to Santa Clara from Illinois. The change in scenery has done wonders for the former four-star recruit, who is averaging 19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The sophomore is the best perimeter player the conference has to offer.
Betting Pick to Win The West Coast Conference Conference Tournament
For as good of a coach as Few is for Gonzaga, there aren’t many matches for Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett when it comes to the X’s and O’s. He’s a mastermind when it comes to getting his team prepared — and making in-game adjustments — and that’s why it’s hard not to like the Gaels when the talent gap between them and the Bulldogs isn’t as big as usual. For that reason, combined with the fact that the Gaels have an advantage in the backcourt, we’re rolling with Saint Mary’s to win this tournament for the first time since 2019.
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