March 11, 2012
SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- For the second time in the 60-year history of West Coast Conference men's basketball, the WCC will send three teams to the NCAA Tournament, as the bracket was announced by the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee on Sunday. Three West Coast Conference teams - Saint Mary's, Gonzaga, and BYU - will compete in the field of 68, marking the second time in the last five years (2008) the WCC has produced three tournament teams.
The West Coast Conference is one of eight conferences to have at least three teams selected to compete in this year's field of 68, joining the Atlantic Coast, Atlantic-10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, and the Southeastern.
Saint Mary's (27-5 overall, 14-2 WCC) won its first WCC regular season title outright since 1989 and won the 2012 Zappos.com WCC Basketball Tournament title to earn the West Coast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA field. The Gaels are a 7 seed - the highest in school history - in the Midwest Region, and Saint Mary's will face Purdue (21-12) from the Big Ten Conference on Friday in Omaha, Neb. Led by WCC Player of the Year Matthew Dellavedova - a Cousy Award finalist - the Gaels will be making their third tournament appearance in the last five seasons.
Gonzaga (25-6 overall, 13-3 WCC) returns to the NCAA Tournament for an incredible 14th consecutive season. The Bulldogs earn an at-large berth and a seven seed in the East Region, and will open tournament play on Thursday in Pittsburgh against West Virginia (19-13) of the Big East. This will be the second consecutive year the Zags will open the NCAA Tournament against a Big East opponent, having defeated St. John's last season. Paced by WCC Defensive Player of the Year Rob Sacre and conference Newcomer of the Year Kevin Pangos, this year's Bulldogs put together their 15th straight season of 20+ wins, topping fellow Big East Conference member and NCAA Tournament team Notre Dame earlier this season.
In its first West Coast Conference season, BYU earns a No. 14 seed in making its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cougars (25-8 overall, 12-4 WCC) won 25 games for the sixth straight season, and will open tournament play in this year's First Four against Iona (25-7) on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. BYU has won 20 or more games in each of head coach Dave Rose's seven seasons, and the Cougars advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2011. Tuesday night's match-up will be the first-ever between BYU and Iona.
The three NCAA Tournament bids also mark the 12th time in conference history that the West Coast Conference has sent multiple teams into the Big Dance. Seven of the multi-bid years have come since 2000, with the WCC sending 22 teams into the NCAA Tournament since the turn of the century.
MULTIPLE WCC TEAMS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
2012 - BYU*, Gonzaga*, Saint Mary's
2010 - Gonzaga*, Saint Mary's
2008 - San Diego, Gonzaga*, Saint Mary's*
2005 - Gonzaga, Saint Mary's*
2003 - San Diego, Gonzaga*
2002 - Gonzaga, Pepperdine*
2000 - Gonzaga, Pepperdine*
1996 - Portland, Santa Clara*
1995 - Gonzaga, Santa Clara*
1989 - Loyola Marmount, Saint Mary's*
1987 - Santa Clara, San Diego*
1982 - Pepperdine, San Francisco*
* Indicates at-large selection