Lots can happen in Vegas, so let’s take a look at some things that could happen including surprises, disappointments, and what players will dominate in the WCC Tournamet.
Contender Most Likely to Disappoint – BYU
A lot of hope is being placed on the Cougars to do something after their headline-making win over Gonzaga. After it seemed like the Bulldogs would roll to another WCC Championship, the Cougars now represent the best shot for anyone to knock them out. But people cannot forget that this is still a very unpredictable team that is overly reliant on outside shooting that can go hot or cold at any time.
While the Bulldogs should have little trouble reaching the finals, the Cougars could be knocked out in any round if they struggle. And that includes their opening which will likely be against Santa Clara. They should have enough offense to overcome any struggles in that one, but Saint Mary’s could beat them with a vastly superior frontcourt in the semifinals. And with their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line and coming off the upset in Spokane, anything less than a finals appearance will be viewed as a disappointment for the Cougars.
Underdog Most Likely to Surprise – Portland
Pepperdine and San Diego have much more potential to make a run, but their road goes through Gonzaga. And in a conference where the top teams are so far above the rest of the pack, sometimes your road to the championship is as important as your talent level. So ironically, the late drop to #6 might have been the best thing to happen to the Pilots. They have to go through Saint Mary’s and likely BYU to reach the finals, but most teams would gladly save the Bulldogs until the very end to avoid them for as long as possible.
The pieces are there for the Pilots to give a complete team effort and do enough to beat both the Gaels and Cougars. If they can shoot as well as they are capable of and get enough contribution inside from their quality big men, they could get an upset or two. If any team outside of the top three is going to make a surprise appearance in the finals, it will likely be the Pilots.
Most Likely “How Did That Happen?” Finals Matchup – #4 Pepperdine vs. #6 Portland
As we just discussed, Portland has the best shot of a surprise finals run going through the non-Gonzaga side of the bracket. On the other side an upset is unlikely, but if it’s going to happen the Waves have the best shot. San Diego actually has a better shot of advancing out of the quarterfinals right now, but the Waves are better built to shock Gonzaga in the semifinals. They have the inside presence to challenge teams, and they have already proven their defense can really slow down the talented athletes of the Bulldogs.
The Waves by far have the best chance of any team on the Gonzaga side to keep the Bulldogs out of the finals. So if you’re hoping for absolute chaos and the most unlikely result that’s within reason, it’s the nation tuning into the finals on Tuesday expecting to see BYU and Gonzaga but being surprised and confused to see the Waves and Pilots warming up to compete for the title.
Tournament MVP – Kyle Wiltjer
The Gonzaga star has been a scoring machine lately, and the WCC Newcomer of the Year has been arguably the best single player in the conference this year. He will put up a lot of points and probably be the top scorer in Vegas as the Bulldogs roll to the title. He should shine in the finals against BYU as he dominates inside while the Cougars struggle to shoot long range jumpers to keep up. He can carry this team a long way in March, and that should begin in Vegas.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Pangos – Gonzaga, Tyler Haws – BYU,
Kyle Collinsworth – BYU
- Przemek Karnowski – Gonzaga
- Kyle Wiltjer – Gonzaga
- Kevin Pangos – Gonzaga
- Kyle Collinsworth – BYU
- Tyler Haws – BYU
A player not from the Bulldogs or Cougars might sneak in there, but if things go to form those two teams will dominate the bracket and the tournament awards. Saint Mary’s might struggle too much to get Brad Waldow in over Karnowski, but he has the best chance to break into the All-Tournament team ahead of the above guys.
Wiltjer and Pangos have been elite all year and will be the best players for Gonzaga, so they are easy selections. Haws and Collinsworth get a ton of numbers, and they will be a big part of any success the Cougars have. So they are pretty safe selections as well. This foursome has clearly been the best group of players in the conference, and that will continue in Vegas.
Honorable Mention: Brad Waldow – Saint Mary’s, Byron Wesley – Gonzaga,
Gary Bell Jr. – Gonzaga, Stacy Davis – Pepperdine