The top-seeded BYU Cougars and Gonzaga Bulldogs don't play until tomorrow afternoon in the West Coast Conference tournament, but the teams that beat them in conference play this season are on the schedule for today.
The entire 2012 WCC women's basketball tournament will be broadcast and live streamed on BYU TV and today they'll have two games on the schedule.
- Noon PST: St. Mary's Gaels vs. Pepperdine Waves (WBB State info)
- 2 p.m. PST: San Diego Toreros vs. Portland Pilots (WBB State info) (Update: 2:30 p.m. revised tip-off after late end to Game 1)
#4 St. Mary's vs. #5 Pepperdine
If there was something of gap between the haves and have nots in the WCC standings, you could arguably place that between St. Mary's and Pepperdine.
Nevertheless, the Waves only lost by three to the Gaels on the final day of the regular season in Malibu due in large part to winning the battle of the offensive boards by a narrow margin. But even in that lies either hope for continued improvement or evidence of an anomaly: it took Pepperdine's best rebounding performance of the season just to come within three of St. Mary's at home. On a neutral court, that should be an even more difficult task.
But if it does come down to rebounding, the x-factor in this game could be junior forward Skye Barnett who hauled in 4 offensive rebounds in that last meeting and is the best rebounder by percentage (14.89%) in the rotation.
#3 San Diego Toreros vs. #7 Portland Pilots
San Diego has one of the most methodical offenses in the conference, playing beautifully orchestrated team basketball when they're able to hit their rhythm. The flip side of that team mindset is the lack of a dominant go-to player who they can rely on, which is arguably what separates them from BYU and Gonzaga.
If there's anything that gives Portland a chance to win this game, it's playing disciplined enough defense to force San Diego into 1-on-1 basketball while also staying hot from the 3-point line. Portland is second in the conference in 3-point shooting (34.2%) and is one of the few teams you'll see that will run consecutive half court sets in the middle of a game to set themselves up for a three. Fittingly, yesterday's opening game against the Santa Clara Broncos was a 3-point shootout, with the Pilots winning the battle by shooting 21 threes and hitting a scorching 52%.
With that, the player to watch in this game is quite clearly Portland forward Nathalie Day, the conference's second-leading scorer who "only" had 15 points on 1-for-3 3-point shooting yesterday; the senior is a 43.9% 3-point shooter on the season and at 6'0" has the ability to get her shot off against most defenders. San Diego is one of the most, if not the most, disciplined defenses in the conference and if they can identify and contest shooters they should be able to win this game.
Click here for the full schedule, brackets (.pdf), TV information, and links for audio and video streams for the WCC (men's and women's) tournament. Click here for full stats from the WCC Tournament via WBB State. For more of our WCC coverage from throughout the season, click here.