The West Coast Conference and Pac-soon to be 12-10 feature 5 Bay Area schools that all warrant the support of the locals. Three of the top four in the WCC standings are local schools: 1. St. Mary’s College, 2. University of San Francisco, and 4. Santa Clara University. In the Pac 10, the Cal Bears and Stanford Cardinal are fifth and sixth, respectively, with 6-7 conference records standing four games back from division leader, University of Arizona.
A lot of discussion has been going around about the development of the WCC and the downward spiral of competition in the Pac 10. I have to agree with both of these opinions, but I am unsure of whether this is the year where we will see more or an equal amount of WCC teams in the NCAA tournament field of 68.
With the inclusion of 2 more play-in games, I can see a possibility of 2 WCC schools making it into the field. If Gonzaga or the vastly improved USF or SCU can find a way to knock off the Gaels of St. Mary’s, I believe 2 teams can go dancing. This is the only way that will happen. I think we will have to wait until next year when BYU joins the WCC to see the inclusion of two teams.
Although it has been a down year for the Pac 10, we still might see the top four teams dancing their way into the March Madness. Arizona, UCLA, Washington and Washington St. have all made strides recently and could find themselves fulfilling every College Ball player’s dream: the opportunity to play in the tourney and fight for a National Championship.
Despite being in the top four in what once was a top-notch conference, the latter 3 still need to prove themselves in order to secure a spot. Washington St. is 2-2 in the month of February including an embarassing loss to Oregon. They have good wins including one over Baylor back in December. Their last 5 games will prove extremely important, including their Thursday night showdown with Arizona. Washington is also in the same boat, having lost 3 in a row earlier this month before beating Cal and Stanford.
My predictions: I see St. Mary’s and Gonzaga (via WCC tourney championship) making it into the field of 68 from the WCC. In the Pac-10, I see Arizona, UCLA, and Washington finishing strong and being included in the field of 68. Watch out for a possible sweet 16 run from UCLA as they have grown up lately despite not having a single senior on their roster. Their balanced scoring and team play could lead them to a strong run in March.