Best Case/Worst Case – WCC Tournament Edition


The wonderful thing about the WCC Tournament is the endless possibilities. No matter how your team did in the regular season, everyone has a chance at the NCAA Tournament if they can win the jackpot in Las Vegas. But there’s a lot more at stake than just the elusive automatic bid which, let’s be honest, is only a realistic goal for 3-4 teams at best each season. For the other teams, there are opportunities for upsets, at-large postseason bids, and a chance to change the outcome of their season for the better or worse.

On that note, let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for each team this year at the WCC Tournament. This is the dream and nightmare scenario for every team, within reason, based on their regular season. It was a wild finish last week, so who knows what unexpected scenarios could come true under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

In the spirit of other best/worst case type of articles, this draws on both fiction and reality. While these scenarios might not be exactly what happens if each teams does good or bad, it’s an imagining of what could happen if everything goes right, or alternatively, everything goes wrong in Vegas for each team.


Best Case: The Tigers continue show great team play as they upset San Francisco in the first round to set up a meeting in the quarterfinals with Gonzaga. In that game, the Tigers put the entire nation on notice as they drag the Bulldogs into a low-scoring game. Dulani Robinson emerges as a legitimate second option behind T.J. Wallace, and the young frontcourt holds its own against the elite Gonzaga big men. The Tigers actually lead late in the first half before the Bulldogs catch up and pull away in the second half.  But the Tigers are energized, and their young core is more motivated than ever to take the next step during the offseason.

Worst Case: The Tigers return to becoming too reliant on Wallace and easily go down in the first round. The big men are bullied by the superior frontcourt of San Francisco, and nobody besides Wallace scores in double figures as they lose by a large margin. Unhappy with the lack of success during this time of transition in the program, some of the top young players consider transferring, setting the Tigers even further back as they try to keep up with a fast-improving conference.

Loyola Marymount

Best Case: Evan Payne makes his debut to the world. After quietly having another stellar season for the Lions as the team struggled to find wins, Payne shows off as one of the best scorers in Vegas. After blowing by Santa Clara in the first round, Payne gets the ultimate scoring matchup in the WCC going up against the great Tyler Haws and BYU in the quarterfinals. The Lions give the Cougars a game and fall in the end, but Payne is the leading scorer for either team. His impressive effort on the big stage gives Mike Dunlap a big recruiting advantage, and the Lions start to turn the corner as recruits look to join LMU in preparation of playing with Payne during his final seasons in the program.

Worst Case: In a battle of great young scoring guards, Jared Brownridge of Santa Clara gets the better of Payne. He has much more help backed by Brandon Clark, and the lack of depth behind Payne becomes obvious as the Broncos pull away for an easy victory. Recruits are scared off by the the focus on Payne and lack of depth, and Dunlap has trouble in the short-term recruiting. Payne is still on his way to becoming a star, but it appears the rebuilding process will not be completed before his storied career is over.

San Francisco

Best Case: Fielding a team that is mostly intact from the breakout season of last year, everything finally comes together. Devin Watson becomes a star and turns into the floor general the Dons desperately need. With him running the backcourt, the shooting gets red hot in support of the already elite frontcourt. The Dons dominate the Tigers and go rolling into the quarterfinals with momentum. They play Gonzaga close through the first half and end up losing by a smaller than expected margin. Most notably, Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Witljer have below-average games as they are challenged by Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen. The Dons leave Vegas with renewed hope as they get to work making sure next season is more like 2013-14 than this current one.

Worst Case: Basically the WCC Tournament goes exactly like the entire season has gone. Pacific gets them stuck in a very sloppy and low-scoring game, and they allow Wallace and rest of the Pacific backcourt to get the better of them. Pinkins and Tollefsen are strong as usual, but they get little support as the Tigers pull out a close victory thanks to better shooting down the stretch. This nightmare of a season ends with more disappointment and lots of questions left to be answered. Fans spend the offseason worried that the success of 2013-14 was fleeting versus a sign of a long-term turnaround.

Santa Clara

Best Case: Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark have some of their easiest games. Why is that good? Because it means the supporting cast continues to shine, allowing the duo to shoot freely and become more relaxed scorers. The defense continues to smother opponents and forces double-digit turnovers as they roll past Loyola Marymount easily. Against BYU in the quarterfinals, Clark and Brownridge shine going head-to-head with Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth. The newly improved frontcourt of the Cougars gets the better of weaker Broncos, but it’s a quality finale in the last game with both Brownridge and the senior Clark on the court together. Clark goes on to a solid career in Europe, and the Broncos continue to build around Brownridge and their young core.

Worst Case: Brownridge and Clark have to do everything, the team can’t buy a rebound to save their lives, and the defense doesn’t get any help from a one-dimensional offense where the two guards carry all the weight. The better team effort comes from Loyola Marymount, and all the momentum of the Saint Mary’s upset evaporates as they are upset by the #10 seed Lions in the first round. Brownridge and Clark put up their usual high-scoring numbers, but their final game together is more of a reminder of how overly reliant the Broncos were on them than a testament to their amazing talent when playing together.


Best Case: Thomas Van der Mars and Volodymyr Gerun go back to being a potent duo in the frontcourt, and it takes some pressure off Kevin Bailey and the rest of the guards so they don’t have to shoot so much. The return to being a more complete team which allows them to overwhelm Brad Waldow and Saint Mary’s in the quarterfinals as the Gaels cannot recover from their shocking loss to Santa Clara to end the regular season. Against BYU in the semifinals, the two sharpshooting cores of guards battle it out while Van der Mars and Gerun get the better of the weaker Cougars inside. Down late, Alec Wintering is again the hero as his late three pointer pushes the Pilots past the stunned Cougars. The Pilots cannot upset Gonzaga in their surprise appearance in the finals, but their impressive run boosts their status and they make a deep run in the CIT Tournament after vastly improving their seeding.

Worst Case:  Van der Mars and Gerun continue to disappear, and Waldow and the superior Gaels bully them inside. The Gaels win the rebounding margin by a large gap, and their guards outplay the Pilots who are pressured into shooting way too much. Portland loses by a wide margin, and accepts a low seed in the CIT Tournament. Hoping for a deep run to save their season, they lose on the road to an inferior mid-major in the first round as they fall to .500 for the year. As a number of key seniors depart, and questions abound as fans wonder if a core of Bryce Pressley and Alec Wintering is enough to carry a team with no obvious replacements in the frontcourt for Van der Mars and Gerun.

San Diego

Best Case: The Toreros remain red hot as their newly discovered depth continues to shine. Johnny Dee is one of the top scorers of the tournament, Brandon Perry and Jito Kok remain stout defenders and rebounders inside, and their trio of up and coming freshmen looks like one of the best young recruiting classes in the entire conference. They duplicate their last meeting with Pepperdine blowing away the Waves to set up a meeting with Gonzaga in the semifinals. Like they did in the first half of their meeting in Spokane, the Toreros slow down the game and force bad shots as they hang around in a low-scoring affair. They actually lead by 5-10 points in the second half as the Bulldogs again find themselves down late in a game.

Talent prevails when the Toreros allow Gonzaga to get a late run as their inability to close out games comes back, but their impressive effort vaults them into another deep CIT Tournament run. In a repeat of last year, they meet a WCC opponent late in the tournament like they did last year when Pacific knocked them out. But this time, the Toreros prevail over WCC foe Portland and manage to make a run all the way to the CIT Championship sending out Dee and Chris Anderson on a high note. Bill Grier earns a contract extension and continues to build around his potential-filled young core after the most successful postseason in program history.

Worst Case: The Toreros turn back into the awful team they were during the early part of conference play. They cannot make a shot no matter how hard they try, and the inside game of Pepperdine is too strong to stop. The Waves don’t shoot well either, making it all the more frustrating as the Toreros can’t even get enough offense to win a low-scoring game. Their reputation from last year earns them a return trip to the CIT Tournament, but they go out easily to a superior mid-major on the road in the first round as their struggles continue. The offseason is full of questions as to whether time is up for Grier and whether the team next year can be nearly as good without Dee and Anderson.


Best Case: The Waves turn back into the complete team that was exceeding all expectations during the middle of conference play. Stacy Davis and Jett Raines terrorize opponents in the paint, and Jeremy Major leads a suffocating defense on the outside as teams cannot find any offense against them. They breeze past San Diego and turn their game against Gonzaga in the semifinals into a battle on the level of the one the Bulldogs faced in Malibu during the regular season. They nearly pull off the upset again, but the Bulldogs barely survive.

The boost to their status is not enough to get back in the NIT conversation, but the Waves secure a good seed in the CBI Tournament as people believe they can compete against solid mid-major and power conference teams. They win a couple games before bowing out to a power conference opponent, but their momentum is revived heading into next year with all their players returning.

Worst Case: Facing a team very similar to them in San Diego, it’s a repeat of their game in Malibu a few weeks ago. The Waves struggle from the outside as the Toreros rain shots, force turnovers, and win by a wide margin. The Waves accept an invitation to the CIT Tournament and host their first round game, but their collapse is completed when an inferior mid-major comes into Malibu and pulls out a close victory. Doubts creep in as to whether the same roster returning next year is actually a good thing.

Saint Mary’s

Best Case: The Gaels turn back into the talented team that was rolling through the first half of conference play looking like only Gonzaga could stop them. Brad Waldow turns back into a WCC Player of the Year candidate, Kerry Carter starts putting up near triple-double numbers again, and Aaron Bright runs the offense to perfection while joining Garrett Jackson, Emmett Naar, and Desmond Simmons to form a talented supporting cast. They fire on all cylinders blowing out a struggling Portland team to take momentum into a big matchup against BYU in the semifinals. Waldow dominates inside against the weaker Cougars, and the shooters of BYU go cold as the Gaels roll past the Cougars surprising everyone who thought BYU was a candidate to win it all after upsetting Gonzaga.

Facing the Bulldogs with a chance to shock the world and needing to win the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, they turn in one of their finest games of the season. Waldow shows why he is the best center in the conference as he outplays the Gonzaga big men and puts up a double-double. The Gaels lead by double figures in the second half as they did in the meeting in Moraga, but this time they hold off the late Gonzaga rally and become the surprise winners of the WCC Tournament as they head to the Big Dance with their automatic bid. Facing a huge game against a much higher seed, they give a good effort but fall in the first round. But still, the Gaels are energized and suddenly part of the conversation as one of the top teams in the WCC again after BYU and Gonzaga dominated the headlines all year.

Worst Case: Portland exploits every flaw of the Gaels using their big men to shut down Waldow as their guards get hot and allow the Pilots to jump ahead early. They maintain a lead into the second half when the Gaels catch up but can never fully recover. The back-to-back upset losses to end the season haunt them, and it leads to a first round exit in the NIT against a lower seed. Meanwhile, Gonzaga and BYU both shine in the postseason as the Gaels continue to slowly fade away from being among the top teams in the WCC and fall closer to the middle of the pack. Fans daydream longingly about the days of Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, and others as those days look like they may be over.


Best Case: The energy and hype that came from the Gonzaga upset are on full display in Vegas. Corbin Kafusi becomes a breakout star as he continues to give the Cougars a new presence inside, something they have sorely missed this season. With less pressure on them, the talented group of guards can be more selective with their shots. This improves their accuracy, and they rain down shots with deadly accuracy blowing by Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s with little effort. The final gets a ton of national attention as the Bulldogs and Cougars meet again just over a week after the upset in Spokane.

Determined not to make the same mistakes and with the BYU defense playing more like it did the majority of the season, the Bulldogs jump ahead early and lead the entire first half. With the Cougars looking defeated and the upset looking like it was a fluke, they suddenly get red hot in the second half. After doing most of their damage all season with long range shooting, it shines in the final minutes of this game. Everyone seems to be hitting everything, and they set a WCC Tournament record for most three pointers in a game as they upset the Bulldogs again to claim the WCC Championship.

In the NCAA Tournament, they upset a pair of teams with their dynamic offense and become the last team from the WCC standing after the Bulldogs sputter in the second round. They end up falling to a high seeded team in the Sweet Sixteen, but the Cougars polish off one of their finest seasons that come out of nowhere after it looked like they were left for dead in the middle of the year. Tyler Haws graduates a hero, and the Cougars enter the offseason as the conference favorites for next year with a stacked recruiting class coming in along with injured player returning to health to back up their returning stars.

Worst Case: The Cougars turn back into the team with no inside presence and the one that can collapse when long range shots aren’t falling. Santa Clara comes straight at them with their newly improved frontcourt in the quarterfinals after the confidence-building win over Saint Mary’s, and both Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark are hitting their shots as the Broncos jump out to a double-digit lead. The Cougars begin forcing up shots, and they play right into Santa Clara’s ability to force turnovers. The Broncos hold on for the win, and BYU has a shocking early exit.

The upset loss severely damages their NCAA Tournament status, and they go from just making the tournament to being left on the outside as pundits highlight how their bad losses like the one to Santa Clara cancel out their Gonzaga upset. They settle for a high seed in the NIT Tournament where their sloppy play continues, and they bow out in the first round to a lower seeded team after fans hoped they could at least make a deep run playing in a lower-tier tournament. Fans long for the days of Jimmer Fredette, the former BYU star who is now unanimously considered the best Cougar ever over Haws.


Best Case: In short, the BYU upset becomes a blip on the radar. They storm past San Francisco and Pepperdine without any trouble as they set their sights on a rematch with the Cougars in the final. Kyle Wiltjer sets a WCC Tournament single-game scoring record as the Bulldogs jump ahead early and never look back. The Cougars get some runs, but they cannot stop Gonzaga inside as they cruise to a victory. Their surprising bounce-back run in Vegas revitalizes support in them, and they manage to hang onto the final #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

With their momentum back and a #1 seed secured despite the late stumble, the Bulldogs embark on the breakthrough postseason fans have waited for. They roar past the first three rounds and find themselves on the cusp of the Final Four. The West Region plays to form, and the Bulldogs face #2 seed Arizona with a chance to avenge the previous loss to the Wildcats. The teams again play an evenly matched game but this time, the Bulldogs hit their free throws down the stretch and hold on to win. The entire Pacific Northwest erupts in celebration as the Bulldogs break through to the Final Four for the first time. They fall easily to mighty Kentucky in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs are satisfied with their breakthrough year. Mark Few is finally able to attract blue chip recruits to Spokane, and the Bulldogs are officially a national sensation again and ranked among the top three in all the early preseason polls for next year.

Worst Case: Still shell shocked from their loss to BYU and the previous month of poor play, the Bulldogs struggle in their opening game against Pepperdine. They trail late in the game before some Pangos heroics help them avoid disaster. In the final against BYU, it becomes a carbon copy of the game in Spokane as the Cougars easily repeat their upset. The Bulldogs fall to a #2 seed and are pushed by a #15 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as doubts build. In the second round, they lose a close game as the season again finishes in disappointment in March. With the Cougars bringing back a strong team next year, The Bulldogs are picked to finish second in the WCC by most experts as they feel Gonzaga missed their best chance in years at a deep tournament run. Fans continue to wonder if the Bulldogs will ever break through.

Good luck to all the teams in Vegas, and here’s to their trips being a lot more best case and a lot less worst case!