Gonzaga Bulldogs, WCC Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The WCC Tournament.

The WCC Tournament is known as one of the weirdest conference tournament layouts, with the top two seeds getting auto-byes to the semifinals. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s emerge as the heavy favorites, but there’s no shortage of teams that can turn some heads.

2023 WCC Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Freshman of the Year: Aiden Mahaney, Saint Mary’s

Transfer of the Year: Brandin Podziemski, Santa Clara

Coach of the Year: Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s

First Team:

  • G: Cam Shelton, Loyola Marymount (21.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 38.7 3P%)
  • G: Khalil Shabazz, San Francisco (17.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.2 SPG)
  • F: Julian Strawther, Gonzaga (15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 42.6 3P%)
  • F: Brandin Podziemski, Santa Clara (19.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 44.5 3P%)
  • F: Drew Timme, Gonzaga, (21.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 61.8 FG%)

Second Team:

  • G: Logan Johnson, Saint Mary’s (14.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG)
  • G: Aiden Mahaney, Saint Mary’s (14.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG)
  • G: Marcellus Earlington, San Diego (17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG)
  • F: Moses Wood, Portland (15.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 40.3 3P%)
  • F: Maxwell Lewis, Pepperdine (17.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.8 APG)

WCC Tournament Simulation

First Round – Thursday, Mar. 2

8. Portland (13-18, 5-11) vs 9. San Diego (11-19, 4-12) – 9 p.m. on WCC Network

This is a much different Portland team than the one that beat Villanova by 12 in November, but they’re still good enough to win their first game and take down San Diego. Portland swept the season series, with Moses Wood scoring double digits in both.

Ariel’s Pick: 8. Portland

7. Pacific (14-17, 7-9) vs 10. Pepperdine (9-21, 2-14) – 11:30 p.m. on WCC Network

Both games in the regular season were close, with Pacific winning both by 8 and 9. So, expect a single digit result, but a Pacific win. Pepperdine is 0-12 away from home this season, and don’t expect that to be snapped in this one.

Ariel’s Pick: 7: Pacific

Second Round – Friday, Mar. 3

8. Portland vs 5. BYU (17-14, 7-9) – 9 p.m. on WCC Network

This was a down year for BYU, but Mark Pope doesn’t want to leave the WCC Tournament without a fight. BYU’s defense is as good as it gets, and they’ll have enough to take down Portland.

Ariel’s Pick: 5. BYU

6. San Francisco (18-13, 7-9) vs 7. Pacific – 11:30 p.m. on WCC Network

San Francisco has one of the best mid-major guard combos in the country in Khalil Shabazz and Tyrell Roberts. Their scoring will be enough to take down Pacific and move on to the quarterfinals.

Ariel’s Pick: 6. San Francisco

Quarterfinals – Saturday, Mar. 4

5. BYU vs 4. Loyola Marymount (19-11, 5-7) – 10 p.m. on ESPN2

The two teams split the season series, but the most recent matchup saw BYU win by 28 points. Cam Shelton will need to go for 30 points in this one for LMU to continue their big season, something he is more than capable of doing.

Ariel’s Pick: 5. BYU

3. Santa Clara (23-8, 11-5) vs 6. San Francisco – 12:30 a.m. on ESPN2

Santa Clara comes into this game as not only one of the hottest teams in the conference, but in the whole conference thanks to a seven game winning streak. Carlos Stewart scored 18+ in both games they played against San Francisco, and if they can get that plus a solid performance from Brandin Podziemski, it will be more than enough to beat the Dons.

Ariel’s Pick: 3. Santa Clara

Semifinals – Monday, Mar. 6

5. BYU vs 1. Saint Mary’s (25-6, 14-2) – 9 p.m. on ESPN

Both games were decided by six or fewer points in the regular season, so expect a slower, defensive battle. Aiden Mahaney’s maturity in late-game situations is extremely impressive, and considering this game could come down to the final minutes, that should be the difference-maker for the Gaels.

Ariel’s Pick: 1. Saint Mary’s

2. Gonzaga (26-5, 14-2) vs 3. Santa Clara – 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2 

Did you forget Gonzaga was playing in this tournament? We don’t blame you, as there were seven WCC Tournament games played before Gonzaga gets a shot to compete. Santa Clara is good, and they’d probably win 70% of mid-major leagues this year, but unfortunately, Drew Timme and Gonzaga are just too good, especially now that they’re in a rare position where they are fighting for better seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Ariel’s Pick: 2. Gonzaga

Championship – Tuesday, Mar. 7

1. Saint Mary’s vs 2. Gonzaga – 9 p.m. on ESPN

I think every college basketball fan is rooting for this matchup, especially after the exciting regular season games. The key is Aiden Mahaney. The Saint Mary’s guard was huge in the second half and was almost the main reason why Saint Mary’s was able to win in their first showdown. In the second game, he only mustered 9 points on bad shooting and the Zags were able to win by 9. Anything can happen in March, and this is sure to be one of the better conference tournament finales.

Ariel’s Pick: 2. Gonzaga

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