Busting Brackets

WCC Basketball: 2024 conference tournament preview and predictions

Feb 3, 2024; Spokane, Washington, USA; St. Mary's Gaels guard Augustas Marciulionis (3) controls the
Feb 3, 2024; Spokane, Washington, USA; St. Mary's Gaels guard Augustas Marciulionis (3) controls the / James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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The West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway on Thursday in Nevada, but who will come away with the tournament title this year?

When we’re talking about the WCC, Gonzaga gets much of the attention. The Bulldogs were a Cinderella program but have turned that success into a quarter century of dominance, and we’re not just talking about this conference. The WCC has nine teams and does get multiple bids relatively often, but this has recently been Gonzaga’s show with teams like Saint Mary’s and BYU playing second fiddle.

Things are different this year. Saint Mary’s won the regular season title and have looked like the better team for much of the season. Still, this isn’t really out of the ordinary. With BYU leaving the league this past offseason, the balance of power really rests with these two schools. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2008 to find someone (San Diego) other than them winning the WCC Tournament.

What makes the WCC Tournament unique is the stepladder format that they utilize. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s essentially get triple byes to the semifinals, while the two teams at the bottom of the league would have to win five games in six days to win the tournament. Not only are those two programs significantly better than the rest of the league, but they have a laughably simpler route to the title.

Gonzaga’s January loss to Santa Clara was the only game that they or Saint Mary’s lost against the other seven teams in the WCC, though perhaps it’s not a guarantee that they’ll face off in the title game. Sure, it’s been sixteen since someone outside of those two (and BYU) made the conference title game, but San Francisco has played well in recent years, while Santa Clara has already shown they can hang with the Bulldogs.

After a quarter century of dominance and consecutive trips to the Big Dance, Gonzaga has been very much on the bubble until a hot streak across the last month. The WCC is getting two bids to the NCAA Tournament unless something completely unexpected happens. San Francisco or one of the other teams would likely need to upset both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s; is that doable? Who do we think will stand out in this field?