Tuesday March 5th, 2013

To make this year's tournament, BYU will almost certainly need to beat Gonzaga. (Boyd Ivey/Icon SMI) To make this year's tournament, BYU will almost certainly need to beat Gonzaga. (Boyd Ivey/Icon SMI)

March 6-11, Orleans Hotel (Las Vegas) | Bracket

The WCC has taken a nine-team event and stretched it over five game days (and six calendar) days, giving significant advantage to the top two seeds (Gonzaga and Saint Mary's), who are one win each away from another meeting in the championship game. BYU and Santa Clara get byes into the "quarterfinal" round, with the rest of the league at least four wins away from a shock auto bid.

Key Matchup: No. 3 BYU vs. No. 2 Saint Mary's (possible semifinal)

The Cougars know they need the auto bid to dance. They whiffed on every top-end opportunity in their schedule, so without three wins in Vegas, the Marriott Center may end up hosting another game or two this season. Assuming they can handle the San Diego-Pepperdine winner in the quarters, they get a third shot at the Gaels, who beat them on the #Dellavedagger in Provo and then won by seven in Moraga. It's a winnable game for the Cougars, who then would almost certainly have to beat Gonzaga to dance.

Team to Watch: BYU

I think Santa Clara is pretty good, but I don't think there's much of a chance the Broncos get past Gonzaga in the semis. The Zags just eviscerated them by 43 points in Spokane and know two more wins has them very strongly in contention for a 1-seed and all the trappings that go with it. And even with a massive upset, Santa Clara lost twice handily to Saint Mary's if that's the final. That leaves BYU, on the other side of the bracket, as the only real likely dark horse with a chance to make this interesting.

Hottest Storyline: We meet again?

It's becoming one of college basketball's hottest dramas: Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's for the auto bid. This season, there's a ton at stake. As noted, Gonzaga is looking to close out the regular season and land a No. 1 seed in the West. Saint Mary's, even with a gaudy record, may very well need the auto bid to dance. The Gaels have the home win over Creighton and a sweep of BYU and that's really about it. Another soft year of nonleague scheduling and 0-for-3 against the Zags may leave them vulnerable on Selection Sunday if they end up staying in the at-large pool.

The Pick: Gonzaga

There's no real need to waste a lot of words on this one. The Zags are easily the best team in the league and one of the best teams in the country. It would be a sizable upset if they don't dance as WCC double champs.

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