How Far Will BYU Advance In Final WCC Tournament Appearance?
PROVO, Utah – The end of the road is here for BYU basketball in the WCC. BYU will participate in its final WCC Tournament as a league member this week.
Since 2012, BYU has been traveling down to Las Vegas for the WCC Tournament. Unfortunately, the highlights have been few and far between. They’ve never won a tournament title since being in the league. In addition, BYU hasn’t won a conference tournament championship since 2001.
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So it would seem like this year would produce similar results considering BYU is only 17-14 overall on the year and finished 7-9 in WCC play. But there’s some reason for optimism that BYU could make a run in this year’s league tourney.
All seven of BYU’s wins over WCC foes were by double-digits. Three of those victories were against teams on their side of the bracket to set up a potential semifinal showdown with Saint Mary’s, who earned the number-one seed.
Concerning Saint Mary’s, BYU had two close calls against the WCC’s top team this season—a one-point heartbreaker in Provo, then a six-point loss in Moraga.
But what about Gonzaga?
The Zags are beginning to play some of their best basketball at the right time. You can bank on Gonzaga being in the WCC Tournament Championship Game, as they’ve been in the title game every year for the past 25 seasons.
But Gonzaga has shown to be beatable this year by their lofty standards. BYU had a heartbreaker against them in Provo and opportunities to pull an upset in The Kennel.
The WCC as a whole is much improved this year. Across the board, every team has veteran players, and it’s made for an exciting year of WCC hoops.
So how will BYU will close out their final conference tournament chapter in their WCC story?
2023 WCC Tournament Predictions
Here are my predictions for the 2023 WCC Tournament.
Thursday, March 2, 2023
No. 8 Portland vs. No. 9 San Diego
My pick: Portland
No. 7 Pacific vs. No. 10 Pepperdine
My pick: Pacific
Friday, March 3, 2023
No. 5 BYU vs. No. 8 Portland
My pick: BYU
Getting the 5-seed was important for BYU for a variety of reasons. First, it allows them to avoid the opening round, they get the earlier tip times allowing for more warmup time on the floor before tip-off, and then they have a more favorable draw.
Portland caused some headlines in the conference in November, going toe-to-toe with North Carolina and Michigan State while also pulling off a win over Villanova. But they’ve dealt with injuries and inconsistent lineups like BYU.
Pilots have lost seven of their last nine. First games in any tournament are always tricky, but a matchup with Portland could allow BYU to have a feeling-out process and still come away with a win.
No. 7 Pacific vs. No. 6 San Francisco
My pick: San Francisco
Saturday, March 4, 2023
No. 4 LMU vs. No. 5 BYU
My pick: BYU
These two teams split the season series, each defending their home court. BYU’s win over LMU in Provo was one of the best victories of the season for the Cougars, as they crushed LMU by 28 points. A game that didn’t include LMU big man Rick Issanza.
LMU guard Cam Shelton is one of the top players in the league. He will cause a lot of issues, as he always does.
But I think BYU defensively could be the difference here, especially if they limit LMU from succeeding beyond the arc. LMU was third in the league during conference play from three-point range at 38.4% from distance.
No. 3 Santa Clara vs. No. 6 San Francisco
My pick: Santa Clara
Monday, March 6, 2023
No. 1 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 5 BYU
My pick: Saint Mary’s
If the BYU team that crushed San Francisco to close out the regular season shows up in this semifinal matchup against Saint Mary’s, BYU could pull the upset. But there’s also the chance BYU could lay an egg, as shown in spots during the up-and-down regular season.
The elevator bracket setup in the WCC allows the top two seeds to have byes until Semifinal Monday night. But we’ve seen the top two seeds in the last handful of years in battles because of the long layoff and facing teams with a game or two under their belts on the court already.
It’s an unusual setup. But ultimately, the Saint Mary’s stars Logan Johnson and Aidan Mahaney will be too much for BYU as the Gaels escape with another close call.
An upset win over the Gaels would put BYU 40 minutes away from an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and almost lock them into the NIT field. A loss would likely keep them on bubble watch for the NIT.
No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 3 Santa Clara
My pick: Gonzaga
WCC Tournament Championship Game
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
No. 1 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 2 Gonzaga
My pick: Gonzaga
The WCC should hope that a Cinderella or two emerges in this WCC Tournament because that would give the league three NCAA Tournament teams this year. But as we know in the WCC Tourney, it’s the chalkiest field in college hoops.
The Orleans in Vegas is always The Kennel South this time of the year. Gonzaga takes home another WCC Tournament Title in their “down year.”
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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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