BYU Cougars (20-5) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-3)
4 p.m. EST
Marriott Center - Provo, UT
The top two teams in the West Coast Conference face off today with the BYU looking to make one last stand to prevent Gonzaga from taking home the regular season title.
With Gonzaga three games ahead of BYU in conference play, a win today would clinch the regular season title and establish the Bulldogs as the clear favorite for getting a tournament bid Even if BYU wins today, they'd need significant help to win the title - as Graham Hays of espnW wrote earlier this week, the conference's champion is pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point.
Yet there is one additional thing that might remain uncertain regardless of today's outcome: how many teams will the WCC put in the 2014 NCAA Tournament?
The S-Factor currently has four West Coast Conference teams projected to make the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but manager Steven Bell explained in a post yesterday that the numbers are a bit skewed by looking at the tournament resume for each team.
If these four opponents ran the table on every other team in the league and suffered losses only against each other, one could make a strong argument that they are all deserving of consideration to the tournament ...the three non-Gonzaga teams on this list have suffered losses against Pacific (86), Portland (136), San Francisco (152), and just last night, Loyola Marymount (211)...This is not a monolith of power atop the Pacific Time Zone's best mid-major conference. This is just a conference with an abnormally high RPI mucking up my prediction formula.
If the automatic bid and an a possible Gonzaga automatic bid are all this conference will get this season, then today's game will go a long way to figuring out if the conference's second-best team is even capable of competing with the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga won the teams' first meeting in Spokane by 26, but 6-foot-7 BYU center Jennifer Hamson fouled out in just 13 minutes of game action. If Hamson can stay out of foul trouble with the recent return of Morgan Bailey - who has been out due to injury for the last couple of weeks - it could be a different outcome today at the Marriott Center.
For Gonzaga, the key players are scoring leader Haiden Palmer and 6-foot-4 forward Sunny Greinacher, who leads the team in both rebounding and free throw percentage. That 1-2, inside-outside combo is better than most in the conference, which is a large reason why Gonzaga has established such a significant cushion for themselves.
If Gonzaga wins today's game in convincing fashion once again, it will be hard to project anyone other than them winning the WCC tournament. And that will probably leave the WCC as a one-bid conference.