By Jerry Hopkins
Welcome to the West Coast! In this mini-preview, I will give you my team to watch, player to watch, tournament sleeper, and tournament champion. Let’s dive in!
Team to Watch – No. 15 BYU Cougars
It’s something about BYU in March that makes them a must watch. Between there 13-3 conference record and ability to shoot the three, BYU has the ability to not only keep themselves in the game but take over. They also hold the best assist average in the West Coast with at 17.7 average this season. With the fact the Cougars have a bye all the way into next Monday, March 9th, it makes them the team to watch if you can catch them in Vegas.
Player to Watch – Jordan Ford, No. 3 for Saint Mary Gaels
While the third seed Gaels have a shot at the title, this senior guard is the major reason that they do. What makes Ford so deadly is the fact he is can do a little bit of everything. While he only takes up to six threes a game, he shoots at a 41.2% rate. What also helps is his outstanding ball handling and ability to finish through contact and smaller defenders. Ford is a certified bucket getter and is definitely the player to watch in the tournament.
Tournament Sleeper – San Francisco Dons
Because of the weird format of the tournament, the Dons have a beautiful chance at being the West Coast Cinderella. They play on the second day of the tournament March 6, getting a one-day bye but not a three-day bye, and have been the only team to knock off the second seed in the tournament in BYU. And while this team may not be the scariest on paper, they have the ability to win close games, such as their one-point win against BYU, there overtime win vs. Pepperdine, or there four-point win over Pacific. Between momentum that can come from a couple wins before, plus Gonzaga being a lock in the NCAA tournament, the Dons could be wearing the glass shoe all the way to the title.
Tournament Champion – No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs
While just a paragraph ago I said the Dons could take the Bulldogs, I still feel Gonzaga is the strongest lock to win the West Coast. While March is not always friendly to the Zags, it’s hard to rule out the team who has only one conference loss to the No. 2 team in the conference (BYU) away from home. They have taken care of conference play and have the ability to play these teams on a neutral court. Plus, the Zags are already in the semi-finals due to the bracket. With sophomore forward averaging 17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and the team averaging 17.1 assists a game, the Zags have to be the tournament favorite.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org