On March 3rd at 7 PM, madness will commence. Loyola Marymount will face the Pacific in the first game of the West Coast Conference tournament, the first conference tournament in this year’s cycle. The tournament will take place on 5 separate days, from Thursday, March 3rd, where two games will be played, until Tuesday, March 8th, where the championship game will be played. It will be broadcasted on ESPN. With the tournament set to begin so soon, here is a rundown on everything you need to know about the Western Coast Conference tournament.
West Coast Conference Tournament Preview
The Favorites: Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been favorites to win this conference ever since Chet Holmgren committed to playing there. While Holmgren may be the star recruit, the strength of his supporting cast should not go unmentioned. Both Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard were each key parts of Gonzaga’s success in the previous season, and have returned with the hopes of replicating it.
Another player who has stepped up big for the Bulldogs this season is Julian Strawther. The sophomore guard played a small role on the team last year, but with the departure of many key role players, Strawther has nearly quadrupled his minutes. In this added time, he has averaged 12.5 points per game on 52% from the field. These contributions have kept Gonzaga level with their performance from last year and set them up to contend for another national title.
The Sleeper Team: BYU
No team should want to mess with Alex Barcello and the Brigham Young Cougars come tournament time. Barcello, the 6 foot 2 5th year senior, has put BYU on his back this season and carried them to their 21-9 record. March Madness is the time for players like Barcello to shine, and in this tournament, he will have the chance to do just that. The guard is averaging a team-leading 17 points per game whilst shooting 45% from the field.
What is also striking about the star power of Alex Barcello, is his performance on the road. When playing away from home, Barcello averages 20 points per game, and shooters nearly 50 percent from three. In this tournament, games will be played on a neutral site, meaning that Alex Barcello and BYU have everything going for them if they want to make a run at the NCAA tournament.
St. Marys Gaels
Gonzaga has only lost three games, and Saint Marys is responsible for one of them. Just last week the Gaels convincingly beat Gonzaga, after an impressive defensive first half, keeping Gonzaga to just 21 points. This gave them a 15 point lead, which carried them to an eventual victory. The only two other teams to beat Gonzaga were Alabama and Duke, both teams who have ranked in the top 25 this season.
What makes the Gaels so special is not a single-star player. The Gaels are good because of the stellar defense they play. St. Marys allows just over 60 points per game, which slots them at 7th in the nation. They are one of three teams in the AP top 25 to appear in the top 10 in points allowed. This defensive prowess is in part, due to the efforts of Logan Johnson, who averages 2.1 steals per game. This ranks 27th in the nation.
San Francisco Dons
The Dons are hoping to return to their ways from the early season come tournament time. After starting 14-0, San Fransisco has faltered and has been looking sluggish since. However, the Dons are a good performance away from an NCAA tournament appearance. If San Fransisco can win enough games against the top teams in this bracket, then they will surely receive a chance to play on.
A large supplier for San Francisco’s success this season has been Jamaree Bouyea. A 5th-year senior, Bouyea has been averaging 17 points per game on 48% from the field. However, Bouyea’s contributions are not only on offense. The Dons’ starting guard gets 1.7 steals per game, which has helped them get to the record they have now. If he holds this pace, Jamaree Bouyea will be the reason that the San Francisco Dons do or do not make the NCAA tournament.
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