On both the men’s and women’s sides, the WCC issues tournament seeds based upon where a team finishes in the league standings. By virtue of finishing atop the league, both the men and women didn’t have to join the fray until Monday’s semifinal round. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the teams who finished 10th through seventh had to start on Thursday, facing increasingly tougher opponents with every passing day. Last year, on the men’s side, two teams made it all the way from the tournament’s first day until its penultimate. This year, however, things have gone almost entirely as expected. There have only been two upsets over the weekend, one on the men’s side and one on the women’s. Let’s start with the men, because the upset in question directly influences what’s happening with the Zags on Monday.
The first two rounds went entirely as one would expect. No. 7 seed Santa Clara took down No. 10 seed Portland and then fell to No. 6 seed Pepperdine. On the other side of the bracket, No. 8 seed LMU defeated No. 9 San Diego before falling to fifth place San Francisco. Saturday’s quarterfinal round saw things take a slight deviation.
The No. 4 seed Pacific Tigers, led by Damon Stoudamire, who was named WCC Coach of the Year, and Jahlil Tripp, WCC Defensive Player of the Year, found themselves victims of an upset. Tripp scored 29 points in a dominant performance on the offensive end, but nobody else stepped up in support. The Tigers managed a season-low 54 points in the loss, while 5th-seeded San Francisco scored 72.
“I thought our depth really showed up in the second half,” San Francisco head coach Todd Golden said after the game.
The Dons played a nine-man rotation in the game, which gives them depth that Gonzaga is lacking with its seven-man rotation. San Francisco’s all-conference wing Charles Minlend put up 21 points and was bolstered by guard Jamaree Bouyea (11 points) and Jimbo Lull (16 points).
“Honestly, we’ve been looking forward to this one,” Minlend said of getting to face off with the Zags. “We didn’t want to say it because we had to win our first two games before we got there but, this is the game we wanted. We knew what we had to be to be one of those top teams, and for us to be that we gotta go through [Gonzaga]. So, I’m really excited.”
Minlend’s wish came true, and now the junior gets another shot at the Zags. Over his career, the Dons have failed to take down Gonzaga, but they’ve come uncomfortably close quite often over the past few seasons.
The final men’s game on Monday will feature 2-seed BYU taking on 3-seed Saint Mary’s. The Gaels needed two overtimes, and a career-high 42 points from senior guard Jordan Ford, to fend off 6-seed Pepperdine’s upset bid. On the losing end, Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross also set a career high and one-upped Ford by scoring 43 points, though his team fell short 89-82.
Gonzaga split the season series with BYU and beat Saint Mary’s by an average of 20 points per game over two match-ups. Assuming Gonzaga gets past San Francisco, Zag fans should root for the Gaels to win against BYU as they should pose less of a threat to the Zags in the final.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 San Francisco
Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Mon, March 9 at 6 pm
2020 Women’s WCC Tournament So Far
As was the case with the men, the women’s tournament didn’t see an upset until Saturday. When that upset finally came, though, it was a big one.
Sixth-seeded Pepperdine needed a late comeback to avoid an upset at the hands of Saint Mary’s in Friday’s second round. But on Saturday in the quarterfinals, the Waves flipped the script and handled third seed BYU with ease, 62-51. That sets up a matchup with No. 2 seed San Diego in the semifinals.
The Zags swept the Pilots in the regular season, winning 62-57 in the conference opener and then 56-42 in the regular season finale. Which means, the Zags are playing back-to-back games against the same opponent.
Twins Lee Anne and Jenn Wirth led the Zags in scoring last time out against the Pilots with 14 points apiece at Portland on Feb. 29.
At a very respectable 19-11 this season, the Pilots have their most wins since the 1998 season. They’re led by West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year, Alex Fowler. The freshman forward leads the team in rebounds, averaging 7.9 per game, and more impressively leads the entire conference in scoring with an average of 17.8 points per game. Though, she’s only averaging eight per game in two meetings with Gonzaga this season. That will need to change if she wants to help pilot Portland into the tournament final.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Portland
Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Mon, March 9 at 12 pm