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Orleans Arena
Paradise, Nevada
March 3-7

Record: 29-1, 17-1

Everyone knows this is Gonzaga’s tournament to lose. St. Mary’s only finished a game back in the conference standings, but not many consider the Gaels a legitimate threat. It can be argued that BYU would pose the bigger problem to Gonzaga, as seen in the regular season finale when BYU won in Spokane. But other than St. Mary’s and BYU, the Bulldogs shouldn’t have any issues en route to the championship. No matter who they face – Pepperdine or Pacific in the quarters, Santa Clara or San Francisco in the semis – Gonzaga should cruise to the final game.

Of course, the Zags are a huge favorite in this tournament for a reason so there’s not much value on them. And with a win, they’ll likely get the 1-seed in the West region for the NCAA tournament. But with a loss, there’s no telling where they end up. The bigger question is what team they’ll face in the final.

Record: 26-3, 16-2

The Gaels had a great season, but were mostly overshadowed by Gonzaga yet again. St. Mary’s looked to give the Zags legit competition in the conference, but once again was swept by the WCC giants. The Gaels will draw either San Diego or Portland in the quarters before likely taking on BYU in the semifinal matchup.

Despite BYU getting the recent win over Gonzaga, it can’t be forgotten that St. Mary’s is still the 2-seed in this tournament for a reason. The Gaels swept the Cougars this season, winning both contests by 13 points. The good thing for the Gaels is that those games showed they could beat BYU in different ways. In the first game, Jock Landale did whatever he wanted en route to 26 points, nine boards and six assists. But in the second game at BYU, Landale got into foul trouble and played only 14 minutes, yet the rest of St. Mary’s stepped up and they got a huge road win. BYU may be better suited to face Gonzaga, but St. Mary’s has the edge on them, which means the Gaels are likelier to face the Zags for the third time.

Record: 21-10, 12-6

The Cougars had that big win against Gonzaga, but their other losses can’t be forgotten about in conference play. They lost to some of the worst teams in the conference, from San Diego to Pepperdine. Because of that, they aren’t even a guarantee to face St. Mary’s in the semis. BYU takes on Loyola Marymount in the quarters, a team they swept, but by five points on the road and eight at home. If they can win that game, they’ll try and get revenge on the Gaels after being swept by them in regular season.

The problem for BYU is that its success is largely related to one player, Erik Mika. He’s a great player, but when the other team can match what he does, the Cougars are usually in trouble. That said, he had decent games against St. Mary’s this season, but it still wasn’t enough. If BYU can get past the Gaels, it’ll take a monumental effort to beat Gonzaga again, but it’s not impossible. The Cougars got Przemek Karnowski in foul trouble in that recent upset and Gonzaga had no answers for Mika down low.

A lot of people will automatically give Gonzaga this championship, but as seen in the BYU loss, the Bulldogs are susceptible. In addition, if BYU makes it to the final game, it can’t be forgotten that the Cougars have beat them three of the last four meetings.

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