Recapping Gonzaga's Run at the 2023 WCC Tournament

Checking in on five storylines before the Zags head to the Big Dance

click to enlarge Recapping Gonzaga's Run at the 2023 WCC Tournament
Erick Doxey photo
Anton Watson choked out any hopes Saint Mary's had of a WCC Tournament title.


Tuesday’s title game was as low stakes as it gets in the WCC. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s were playing for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but neither team needed it. They’re both in. Winner gets a better seed, loser has a tougher path. That was all that was on the line.

But the Zags showed that they’re entering March as hot as any team in the country, running the Gales off the floor in route to a 77-51 win. Gonzaga gets the WCC’s auto-bid, and Gonzaga gets it while firing on all cylinders. Gonzaga enters playing fantastically.

The Zags win the league tournament outright. They’re in, and that’s all that matters. 


Gonzaga’s women ran out to a 28-3 start to the season with an 18-1 record against West Coast Conference competition, but then they lost to Portland in the league tournament title game.

They’re 16th in the AP Poll, but a No. 45 ranking in the NCAA’s NET rankings means they’ll likely take a lower seed than they deserve in the NCAA Tournament. Instead of getting an easier path, the Zags will once again have to fight their way to a deep run in March.

Portland’s 64-60 win over Gonzaga in the WCC Championship Game means the league gets two bids to the NCAA Tournament, instead of the one it would have received had Gonzaga won the tournament in Vegas.

The loss isn’t damning, but it does show that Gonzaga is back in early-season position as the team tries to integrate star guard Kayleigh Truong in her late-season comeback from injury. Truong scored 0 points in 14 minutes played against Portland in the final. The multiple-time all-WCC honoree clearly has some rust after missing every game since late November.

If she gets back up to speed, watch out. On the other hand, this team has performed incredibly well without her.

That said, Portland is a strong team. Pilots’ forward Alex Fowler was her usual stat-stuffing self in the title game, going for 15 points and 11 rebounds. The Pilots won this tournament not too long ago, back in 2020. The Pilots are a good program. Their only way into the madness was a win over Gonzaga. All things considered, the Zags remain in a fine spot.

They just need to win, from here on out. That would’ve been the case even with a win in Vegas. A tough path only got a little bit tougher. 


When BYU joined the West Coast Conference in 2011, Cougar fans were high on Jimmermania. The previous season was arguably the best in program history. Led by National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette, the Cougars were ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP Poll late in the season, compiled a 32-5 record, and knocked off Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. 
Their fanbase expected their team would run through their new home in the WCC.

A dozen years later, and now on their way out of the league to join the Big 12, the men's team leaves with a whopping zero regular season or conference tournament titles. As the rest of the league improved over the years, BYU stagnated and has recently floundered.

The Cougars put up a valiant effort in Las Vegas, winning two games to advance to play Saint Mary’s in the tournament semifinals. That was ultimately where they lost, and with a 19-15 record, they've likely played their final game as a member of the WCC.

BYU is not going to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, and as it stands the Cougars sit outside of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) bubble. Historically, this program has turned down invitations to tertiary tournaments below the NIT — a 19-13 record in 2019 saw them miss the NIT,  decline any other postseason invitations and part ways with longtime coach Dave Rose.  

Capping their WCC years with a loss to Saint Mary's seems only fitting: The Cougars' first game in the conference was a loss to Saint Mary’s as well.


Gonzaga’s Anton Watson was the surprise of league awards season, and not in a good way. The Zags’ do-it-all power forward was left off the 15-man all-conference teams. He instead earned nothing more than an all-WCC Honorable Mention as someone considered for but ultimately left off the all-conference teams.

For his performance in Vegas, the Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep grad was finally recognized as one of the league’s best.

Watson averaged 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, four assists and 1.5 blocks across two games in Las Vegas and was named to the five-man all-tournament team.

The power forward was arguably the best defensive player in the conference this season, but really his offensive numbers are what deserved the most praise. His last turnover came on Feb. 16. In six games since, Watson has dished out 24 assists while committing zero turnovers. That’s your starting power forward putting up elite point guard numbers. And you’re telling me he’s somehow just an honorable mention… 


The Gaels, perennially the thorn in Gonzaga’s side, proved their sharpness again this season by splitting the regular season series with Gonzaga and taking the top seed into the conference tournament. 
Then, Gonzaga beat them by a WCC Tournament Championship Game record margin of 26 points on Tuesday.

Fortunately for the Gaels, they didn’t need to win on Tuesday to secure their spot in the the NCAA Tournament. They’re in, and securely.  A win would have boosted the Gaels to a better seed, but as it stands they look to be somewhere near the 5-seed line. That would match their program-best, set just last year.

Randy Bennett’s program is Gonzaga Jr., and like the Zags, they’re right where they’ve been for years now. They’re into the Big Dance, and comfortably.

For Gonzaga fans who want to root against their archrivals, perhaps consider taking a break from that at this time of year. Money from the NCAA Tournament is doled out based on how far teams advance in the bracket. It’s not dished out by team, but by conference. If Saint Mary’s wins, Gonzaga gets some of that money. Root for the Gaels going forward, no matter how much rooting against the archrival may hurt.


Men’s Selection Show: Sunday, March 12 at 3 p.m. on CBS
Women’s Selection Show: Sunday, March 12 at 5 p.m. on ESPN

Tolkien Reading Day @ Liberty Park Library

Sat., March 25, 2-3:30 p.m.
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