West basketball notes: WCC is deeper, but still looking like a one-bid league
In our preseason previews of the local college basketball conference races last December, The Salt Lake Tribune called the West Coast Conference a three-bid league this year for the NCAA Tournament.
What were we thinking?
At best, the WCC will get two teams in the big dance in March. If No. 25/22 Gonzaga (23-4, 13-1) wins the conference tournament next month at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, there's a very good chance the Zags will be the league's only representative.
Three WCC teams Gonzaga (22), BYU (40) and Saint Mary's (60) rank among the top 60 in RPI, and the league ranks ninth nationally in conference RPI, just ahead of the Mountain West (10) and Missouri Valley (11).
But most experts believe BYU and Saint Mary's have too many "bad" losses to warrant consideration for an at-large bid. That's especially true of BYU, which added to its season of wild inconsistency last week by losing 89-82 at Pacific before beating Saint Mary's 60-57 for the first time ever at McKeon Pavilion.
The Cougars (18-10, 10-5) are still in a few mock brackets, surprisingly, but as Joe Lunardi noted on ESPN's Katz Corner on Tuesday, BYU "has to beat Gonzaga this week [Thursday, 9 p.m. MST, ESPN2], or the conversation is over."
Actually, the loss to Pacific, which has an RPI ranking of 112, wasn't the killer for the Cougars. It was the losses at Pepperdine (133), Portland (158) and Loyola Marymount (159) that were really damaging.
The place for point guards
It has been a good year for point guards in the West, if the list of final candidates for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award is any indication.
Seven point guards who toil in the Pac-12, Mountain West or West Coast Conference made the 23-player cut, which was released Monday.
Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos, who burned BYU with six 3-pointers and 24 points back on Jan. 25 in the Zags' 84-69 win is a finalist, to no one's surprise. Pangos has played through a nagging turf toe injury and started all 27 games for Gonzaga, averaging 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
He's up to No. 21 on GU's all-time scoring list (1,275 points) and is just 66 points shy of surpassing John Stockton for 20th place.
UCLA's Kyle Anderson, Cal's Justin Cobbs, Arizona State's Jahii Carson, Arizona's T.J. McConnell, San Diego State's Xavier Thames and New Mexico's Kendall Williams also made the cut.
LMU's Anthony Ireland, a terrific player on a bad team, was on the preseason watch list of 50, but is off the latest list.
The winner will be announced during the NCAA Final Four weekend in North Texas.
Weber State's woes
There might not be a good team with worse luck in the West than the Weber State Wildcats.
The Wildcats (14-8, 11-3) own a two-game lead over Northern Colorado for the Big Sky lead, but easily could have a four-game lead.
Monday night, Weber State lost 78-75 in overtime at Idaho State, missing three chances to force double-overtime in the final minute after Chris Hansen's 3-pointer gave the Bengals the advantage with 1:29 left in OT. The game featured 16 ties and 18 lead changes.
Oddly enough, Weber State lost by an identical tally, 78-75, the last time it played an overtime session, against Sacramento State.
In that heartbreaking loss, WSU's Davion Berry appeared to have sent the game into double overtime with a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. But Sac State's Dylan Garrity sunk a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer.
That's the game in which the Hornets went in front 75-72 on four technical free throws in the last minute because the Wildcats called a timeout they didn't have and because coach Randy Rahe was hit with a technical for running onto the court.