The WCC Tournament starts this week. It is officially March.
The WCC Tournament has changed just a shade this year, so here are a few things to keep in the know when trying to follow it as well as a few notes about the teams that are waiting for the NCAA ticket to get punched and the teams trying to force their way in.
The format has changed this year: The tournament is starting a day earlier because BYU joined the WCC this year. This happens for two reasons: there are an odd number of teams requiring an extra play-in game; and BYU doesn't play any games on Sunday for religious reasons. Because of this, teams playing throughout the tournament will have an extra day of rest before the WCC final on Monday night.
Who is honestly contending: The WCC was predicted to be a three team race throughout the year and for the most part the predictions held true. Although Saint Mary's won the regular conference title, Gonzaga was only one game behind and BYU only two. Despite the top seed, it isn't a foregone conclusion that Saint Mary's will win, nor is it that far of an upset for Gonzaga or BYU to come away as the tournament champion.
These teams could make some noise: Before everyone knew that the Pac 12 was weak and that UCLA was a wreck, LMU went into Pauley Pavilion and handed the Bruins a 10 point loss. LMU also has wins against Saint Louis at home and Saint Mary's on the road. The team is finally getting healthy at the right time and with the first round bye could be making some noise. The other team to watch out for is University of San Francisco. The team is smaller and less athletic then most, but their tenacious and relentless defense causes fits for teams. Murray State barely beat USF earlier in the year, and the Dons hold wins over Gonzaga at home as well as tight losses to BYU and LMU.
These teams probably won't be doing too much: Santa Clara, Portland, San Diego, and Pepperdine (in order of least likely to pull it off) have some nice pieces, but to make it through the four game slog is just a bit too much to ask for these teams - especially considering that to win they will either have to most likely go through a BYU/Gonzaga and Saint Mary's combo. If they couldn't get it done in the regular season, there isn't much reason to think they can in Las Vegas.
Key Players to Watch Out For: Here we could talk about Matthew Dellavedova, Elias Harris, Matt Carlino, or Anthony Ireland, but the key players to watch out for will be the BYU faithful. Normally the Orleans Arena has been a de-facto home game for the Zags as their well travelling faithful have come to cheer them onto victory. There might be a few more Saint Mary's kids there with their teams sustained success in recent years, but don't ever underestimate the power of BYU in Nevada. Expect to see them come out in droves and give a very nice added boost to the Cougars.