The 2020-21 college basketball season has been unusual, to say the least. The pandemic has created lengthy program pauses, abrupt schedule changes, and a single location for the NCAA Tournament. Adding to the madness, the West Coast Conference has decided to reformat their tournament with the help of technology (yikes). The University Credit Union WCC Tournament has adopted an innovative way to seed both the men’s and women’s basketball programs this year.
WCC Tournament Adopts Innovative Format
At first, it appeared that a doctoral student was doing research and testing for their dissertation. There are some quality institutes in the WCC, so that claim isn’t far-fetched. Partnering with statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy, the WCC Tournament will be seeded by a proprietary algorithm. The use of this model isn’t to promote the conference’s academic standards, but rather to combat this season’s disruptions.
The WCC already has an imbalance in their men’s and women’s schedules. The men play 16 games while the women play an 18-game double-round-robin. Each team is seeded based on winning percentage, but the conference schedules this year cannot be completed. The regular season is set to end on Feb. 27, leaving little hope for postponements to be rescheduled.
Therefore, the WCC Tournament will be seeded using metrics. No one needs to be reminded of the BCS, so let’s just get that out of our minds. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that then. The algorithm will consider an adjusted conference winning percentage based on the games played and the strength of those opponents.
I Don’t Get It
For example, a team like St. Mary’s, who currently sits at ninth in the WCC at 2-4, could benefit. The Gaels have had a disastrous season to their standards, but of their six conference games, they’ve only played one team in the bottom half of the league. They beat San Francisco who is currently seventh in the conference. Of their remaining four games, no opponent sits below them in the standings.
On the other side of the court, a team like Loyola Marymount could drop in seeding. They’re fourth in the WCC standings at 5-3, but haven’t played Gonzaga, Pepperdine, or BYU—the three teams above them.
WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said, “The Ken Pomeroy adjusted conference winning percentage model that has been developed for the WCC provides the most accurate reflection for the conference games that have been completed.”
For the next two weeks, five updated reports will be delivered before the WCC Tournament begins. The final report will seed both the men’s and women’s tournaments on Feb. 28. The WCC Tournament is scheduled to take place March 4-9 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
WCC Tournament Could Be Without Top Two
First reported by John Canzano or The Oregonian, Gonzaga and BYU are both considering opting out of the WCC Tournament.
Gonzaga and BYU are weighing whether they should opt out of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament.
Nothing in it for either program, except risk of injury, bad loss and infection. They’re both NCAA Tournament bound regardless. WCC ADs are talking about this.
— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) February 16, 2021
Gonzaga could be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and have aspirations of a National Championship. On the other hand, it’s rather presumptuous for BYU to think that skipping the conference tournament could be beneficial. For safety reasons, of course, it’s a good idea.
BYU Head Coach Mark Pope told The Salt Lake City Tribune, “We’ve been this close to several games where we’ve actually flown out and the game hasn’t happened. That’s the point of intent right now.”
On the other hand, for seeding reasons, it could backfire. Joe Lunardi currently has the Cougars as an eight-seed in his Bracketology, as does LWOS. They statistically belong, since metrics are on the mind, so they should be a lock. However, skipping the WCC Tournament doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their projection, but it gives other teams the possibility to jump BYU for a higher spot. This may drop the Cougars into a more difficult matchup or path, and they will be playing without momentum.
Conference athletic directors are discussing the option, so nothing is final.
If approved, this creates an enormous opportunity for a team other than Gonzaga and BYU to reach the NCAA Tournament. The WCC will be guaranteed three spots come March. Pepperdine is the program to watch then. The Waves, currently third in the conference, will be the top seed in the WCC Tournament if Gonzaga and BYU opt out. Metrics pending, of course. With games against Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s, and Loyola Marymount remaining, their conference strength of schedule will be solid enough to earn the one-seed.
The news is devastating for other mid-majors if the move is allowed. Pepperdine, or any other remaining WCC school, will take away an at-large bid from the field, and burst a bubble in the process. Conferences like the Mountain West, who have two teams on the bubble at the moment, with the possibility of having four league representatives in the NCAA Tournament, will surely have a casualty. The Atlantic-10 and Missouri Valley should be on high alert as well.
Gonzaga’s Conference Dominance
On a less complex note, for the first time in WCC history, a school could have both their men’s and women’s college basketball programs go undefeated in conference play. The Gonzaga men are 11-0, and the women are 13-0. They are ranked No. 1 and No. 16 in their respective AP polls.
They could become the second school to have both their programs win a national title in the same year. The men seem destined, but the women will have a tough road against the usual suspects at the top of the AP Women’s Top 25. The Lady Bulldogs did play well in a loss to then-No. 1 South Carolina at the beginning of the season, however.
The only school to hold both the men’s and women’s National Championships at the same time is the University of Connecticut. The university did it twice in 2004 and 2014.
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