WCC Tournament Quarterfinals Preview: #6 Portland vs. #3 Saint Mary’s


Way back in October, the preseason WCC poll was released and Saint Mary’s was picked third, Portland sixth. Supporters of both teams thought their team would finish higher up in the standings. Even as last Saturday started, both teams had the chance to finish at the number 2 and 5 positions respectively but after the dust settled on a crazy day of college basketball, the improbable matchup between the Pilots and Gaels was set.

When it comes to each team’s postseason play, Saint Mary’s is looking to strengthen their resume. The Gaels are on the outside looking in when it comes to gaining an at large bid for the NCAA tournament, but the Gaels have proved over the past 10 years that they have to be taken seriously this time of the year. Furthermore they can play the role of spoiler if they meet BYU and/or Gonzaga on Monday and Tuesday. Saint Mary’s is probably going to play in the NIT and each win will add to their resume for seeding.

The Pilots are hoping to get into a postseason tournament, and a win or two would be huge for them.

During the regular season, the Gaels swept the Pilots winning by 10 on the bluff, and 17 in Moraga. In both games the Pilots fell victim to huge scoring droughts allowing Saint Mary’s to score 14 strait in Portland, and 18 strait at Saint Mary’s. This is not an isolated issue for Portland as down the stretch the Pilots have had major lapses in offensive production and is one of the main reasons the Pilots dropped their final 4 games of the season.

At this point in the season, both teams have know what they are, and what they need to do to advance. For Saint Mary’s it starts with Brad Waldow. When the Gaels were really rolling, Waldow was looking like a WCC Player of the year candidate. With the Pilots thin after Thomas van der Mars and Voldy Gerun at the center position, Waldow has the opportunity to really cause havoc for the Pilots.

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Portland will look to use a balanced attack to knock off the Gaels but if they continue to turn the ball over they won’t get very far in their pursuit of the upset. The Pilots will also need to find some sort of spark from the bench, and while Jason Todd is the most likely to add some offensive firepower, Bobby Sharp and D’Marques Tyson are both capable of going off at any time.

Both teams are trending downward at the moment, but this first round could act as a springboard for either of these teams. Every year thousands of people come to Las Vegas feeling lucky and while only a few may leave feeling as good as they did when they arrived, there’s still those lucky few who walk out of here on cloud nine. Both of these teams are hoping they can capture the elusive magic of Vegas and punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a tournament win. While the chances of either team managing to win the entire tournament are slim, crazier things have happened.