It's almost time for the West Coast Conference Tournament, which means I'm almost excited to see more basketball.
That's not exactly true. I am excited, sort of, to see how the last week of the regular season plays out and which teams fit into which slots for the tournament in Las Vegas March 5-10.
Right now, PORTLAND and SAN DIEGO are tied for fifth with 7-9 records. If the Pilots lose at home to BYU on Thursday and San Diego, as expected, loses at GONZAGA, they will be tied again at 7-10 going into Saturday's finale, when they play each other.
The San Diego-Portland loser could fall out of a first-round bye and have to play on March 6, depending on what SAN FRANCISCO and SANTA CLARA, tied for eighth at 6-10, do this week. The Dons and Broncos both play SAINT MARY'S at home this week, meaning if they both defeat last-place PACIFIC and lose to the Gaels, they would be tied again at 7-11.
PORTLAND could also find itself at 7-11 if it loses home games to BYU and San Diego to create a three-way tie for seventh place and necessitate a tie-breaking procedure to determine the sixth-place team that gets a bye on the first day of the tournament. There is also a possibility, albeit a slim one, that BYU and Saint Mary's could tie for third place with 13-5 records, but only if the Cougars sweep Portland and Gonzaga on the road and the Gaels drop one of their remaining games. Again, not very likely. I imagine the Zags will want to finish the regular season strong with a final home game on Saturday night to celebrate the achievements of seniors Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley.
Still more exciting possibilities of ties abound. If Portland beats BYU and San Diego at home and flighty Pepperdine drops its finale to LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, the Pilots and Waves will finish tied at 9-9. Since they split their games in the regular season, it would create more tie-breaking headaches for the home office in San Bruno, Ca.
In fact, the only sure thing going into the final week of the regular season is that Gonzaga will be No. 1 even if it starts a lineup of student managers wearing clown shoes in its final two games and finishes 16-2 (cue sardonic laughter from Mark Few).
Spots 2 through 10 are yet to be determined with any finality. Pepperdine has the simplest formula: beat LMU Saturday afternoon and it will finish 10-8 in fourth place. The Waves would then play No. 5 on Saturday, March 7. No. 5, meanwhile, is up for grabs among Portland, San Diego, USF and Santa Clara.
As you can see, there's plenty of excitement remaining in the last week of the season before tournament time in Vegas.
What We Think about that last week is:
- The number 8 may be lucky in China, which is why the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing opened on 8-8-08 at 8 p.m., but it's unlucky when it comes to the WCC Tournament, as is No. 9. The conference's No. 8 team will play No. 9 in a first-round game on March 6, with the winner there advancing to play No. 1 Gonzaga the next day. Right now USF and Santa Clara are tied for eighth with 6-10 records.
- Who's the player of the year in the conference? Some favor the polished Kyle Wiltjer of Gonzaga. I lean toward BYU's uber-versatile Kyle Collinsworth, he of the five triple-doubles this season. A case could be made for Saint Mary's Brad Waldow, who has carried the Gaels to a 20-win season. Then again, point guard Pangos is what makes Gonzaga go as he often defers scoring in favor of dishing off the ball to his talented teammates. BYU's Tyler Haws leads the conference in scoring while Pepperdine would be a puny Wave indeed without the solid contributions of Stacy Davis. Lots to think about here.
- After Gonzaga, are BYU (21-8) and Saint Mary's (20-7) deserving of NCAA Tournament bids? BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, a member of the NCAA Selection Committee, will surely do all he can to promote the merits of his conference but the fact is that both BYU and Saint Mary's have some bad losses on their records, the Gaels more so than the Cougars. Both will probably be holding their breath come Selection Sunday.
With one week left in the regular season, here are some single-game highs recorded by WCC players:
Points - 45, Wiltjer (Gonzaga) - at Pacific (2/19/15)
Rebounds - 15, Waldow (Saint Mary's) - vs. NAU (12/16/14), Collinsworth (BYU, twice) - last at Santa Clara (1/1/15), Volodymyr Gerun (Portland) - at Gonzaga (1/29/15)
Assists - 12, Chris Anderson (San Diego) - vs. Western Michigan (11/24/14), Alec Wintering (Portland) - at Sacramento State (12/14/14)
Blocked shots - 8, Jito Kok (San Diego) - vs. Loyola Marymount (1/8/15)
3-point field goals made - 10, Chase Fischer (BYU) - vs. Chaminade (11/25/14)
Free throw attempts - 22, Kruize Pinkins (San Francisco) - vs. Eastern Washington (12/11/14)
Trophy time, selfie time
The San Francisco Giants' three World Series trophies from their championship seasons in 2010-12-14 will be on display in the lobby of USF's Memorial Gym on Thursday prior to the Dons' game with Saint Mary's that starts at 8 p.m. The trophies will be in the lobby from 7 p.m. until the 10-minute mark of the first half. Fans are invited to take photos posing with the trophies. In addition, 15 USF graduates who are currently working for the Giants will be introduced in a halftime ceremony as proof that there is life after college.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.