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West Coast Conference Tournament Odds, Preview, and Pick

Jack Magruder

by Jack Magruder in College Basketball

Mar 3, 2021 · 10:39 AM PST

2021 West Coast Conference bracket
The 2021 West Coast Conference Tournament bracket
  • The West Coast Conference tournament will be held March 4-9 in Las Vegas with all 10 teams in the bracket; #1-seed Gonzaga and #2-seed BYU received byes to the semifinals
  • The WCC has taken a giant step into the analytics age — for the first time in NCAA conference tournament history, the teams have been seeded in order of their KenPom adjusted conference winning percentage
  • See the seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below

The West Coast Conference tournament will be held for the 13th consecutive season at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada from March 4 to 9. All ten teams qualify in a stair-step seeding format, with top regular-season finishers Gonzaga and BYU receiving byes into the March 8 semifinals.

2021 Mountain West Conference Tournament Odds

Team Odds
#1 Gonzaga -1000
#2 BYU +300
#3 Pepperdine +2500
#4 Saint Mary’s +2500
#5 Loyola Marymount +6600
#6 Pacific +6600
#8 San Francisco +6600
#7 Santa Clara +10000
#9 San Diego +20000
#10 Portland +20000

Odds as of March 3rd, 2021. 

Because of the pandemic-caused cancellations that created a schedule imbalance in the regular season, the league took the unprecedented step of seeding the teams in order of their ranking in KenPom’s adjusted conference winning percentage. Both Pepperdine and St. Mary’s vaulted ahead of Loyola when KenPom was used instead of the regular-season standings.

The only metric that would keep No. 1 and undefeated Gonzaga (24-0, 15-0 WCC) from the top would be alphabetical order.

The 3-4 seeds Pepperdine and St. Mary’s receive byes into the quarterfinals. while 5-6 seeds Loyola Marymount and Pacific will receive byes into the quarterfinals. The tournament pauses on Sunday, March 7. School religious policy prohibits BYU from competing on Sunday.

It Is Gonzaga’s World

Gonzaga has rewritten WCC tournament history with its remarkable success for the last two decades plus. The Bulldogs have won 17 of the 22 postseason tournaments since 1998, and only two teams have won a tournament game against them. Two.

The Zags won their first league title in 1995 and have made the finals in every tournament since 1998. Sure the unique seeding format helps, because they have had to win more than one game to reach the finals only three times since 2002.

Still …

Here is the list of the teams that have beaten the Bulldogs in the WCC tournament in the last 22 seasons.

Saint Mary’s: 2019, 2012, 2010

San Diego: 2008, 2003

San Francisco: 1998

The Superlatives Never Stop

Gonzaga has been No. 1 in the AP Top 25 every week since the preseason poll, and it has won 21 straight games by 10 points or more after finishing the regular season with an 86-69 home victory at Loyola Marymount.

In so doing, the Bulldogs set a season record for double-digit victories by a No. 1 team, surpassing the 1971-72 Sidney Wicks/Henry Bibby/Curtis Rowe national champion UCLA group that won 20 games by double digits.

Gonzaga has won 28 straight games dating to last season, and it is the first team to finish the regular season unbeaten since Kentucky went 31-0 in 2014-15 regular season, losing only to Wisconsin in the NCAA semifinals.

The Zags are No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency while leading NCAA Division I in scoring at 92.9 points per game, seven points ahed of No. 2 Colgate, and field goal percentage at 55.3.

Sophomore forward Drew Timme is fourth in Division I in field goal percentage at 65.1. Forward Corey Kispert is averaging 19.5 points a game and Timme is averaging 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. And freshman guard Jalen Suggs (13.9 points, 4.5 assists) is considered their best NBA prospect. Several 2021 draft projections have him in the top 10.

The Bulldogs’ average margin of victory this season is 22.6 points, and that includes non-conference wins over ranked teams Kansas, West  Virginia, Iowa and Virginia.

So How Do You Beat Them?

Well, there was talk Gonzaga might not show up, which would have helped the field.

Reports circulated that both Gonzaga and BYU, which are considered locks for the 68-team NCAA tournament, might skip the WCC tournament out of an abundance of caution because of coronavirus concerns. It made sense. Covid-19 issues that reared Sunday may keep Northeast Conference contender Bryant out of its postseason tournament and thus the NCAAs.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few weighed in last week, saying on The Field of 68 podcast that he was never great “with the idea of taking 10 men’s and women’s teams to Vegas in one venue at the same time.” He also mentioned the crowds in the casinos and out.

But Now That Gonzaga Will Be There

Beating the Zags it is not impossible, especially with the ensemble they can put on the floor. But it is difficult, and it usually takes a bad shooting night.

No. 4 seed St. Mary’s (13-8, 4-6) broke Gonzaga’s 21-game winning streak in a 60-47 victory in the 2019 WCC finals, slowing the game to a crawl while swarming big man Rui Hachimura. Gonzaga shot 37.5 percent from the field and made 2 of 19 from distance. St. Mary’s, which won 22 games that season, lost the regular season meeting at Gonzaga by 46 points.

No. 2 seed Brigham Young (19-5, 10-3) may have the best chance, a sprinter’s chance.

BYU is the last team to beat Gonzaga with a 91-78 home victory on Feb. 22, 2019. The Cougars also did with defense, limiting Gonzaga to  41.7 percent shooting in stopping a 19-game winning streak. BYU lost its three top scorers from that 24-win team and is led by guard Alex Barcello, who is averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists.

The Zags won 82-71 in Provo this season, their closest game. Suggs had 24 points and Timme had 20 as the team shot 50.9 percent. Barcello had 20.

Gonzaga and BYU are 1-2 in the league in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage, so if one is hot and the other is not …

St. Mary’s also knows how to beat Gonzaga here, and the Gaels lead the lead in scoring defense and are fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense.

It is a fool’s errand to go against Gonzaga and the short odds are not appealing. Gonzaga will win, but …

The pick: St. Mary’s (+2500)

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