WCC Basketball: Is This the Best the League has Been?
As WCC play gets underway six out of the ten teams are eyeing postseason tournaments.
Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, BYU, Pacific, San Francisco and Santa Clara all finished their non-conference records 11-4 or better. In addition, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU are all ranked in the Top 35 in every major ranking (NET, Ken Pom, BPI). With this much early season success, one has to wonder, is this the best that the WCC has ever been?
The reason why it is a good time to ask this question now rather than later is because if a team like Saint Mary's or BYU were to lose a game or two outside of the big three (BYU, Gonzaga or Saint Mary's) it could not be as bad as it all seems.
In some conferences such as the Big 12, teams have actually finished with losing records in conference play and still made the NCAA Tournament because of how good every team in the conference is. I'm not making any claim that the WCC is at the same level as a Power Six, but perhaps it is good enough to allow a slip up or two, something that has not been the case in the past.
NET rankings are one of the reliable ratings for determining how strong a conference or team is. According to the NET rankings, the WCC is in a really good spot with the following rankings
Saint Mary's (27)
Santa Clara (85)
San Francisco (105)
San Diego (217)
Loyola Marymount (234)
With the exception to the last four teams, the fact that top six teams are in the top 150 is significant. Because of this, if Saint Mary's loses to Pacific, it isn't the necessarily an NCAA tourney killing game. Yes it would still be a really tough loss, however if Pacific were to move up just twelve spots, that could be only a Quad Two loss.
The most surprising teams are BYU and Santa Clara, teams that if continue to win could both be as high as Quad One wins on the road for Santa Clara and at home or on the road against BYU. When a team has up to seven Quad One games in a conference season, getting one win would help erase a blemishing Quad Two or Three loss.
For example, let's say that San Francisco is playing for a spot in the NIT Tournament and they lose a tough Quad 3 game to Loyola Marymount. If they are able to then take down BYU on the road and get a Quad 1 win, suddenly that loss doesn't look so bad.
Finally, with so many Quad One and Two games, teams will also avoid having many Quad Four games that look bad on a resume, even when they are wins. That can prove to be huge for any teams that are on the bubble for any postseason tournament.
Currently, with the success of the WCC and where the teams currently stack up with the amount of potential Quad One and Two teams, here is where the WCC teams likely will end up at the end of the season.
NCAA Tournament - Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU
NIT - Santa Clara, San Francisco (Bubble)
CBI - Pacific
No Postseason - Pepperdine, San Diego, LMU and Portland
Last season, Gonzaga was the only real team that made the NCAA Tournament by regular season success. Saint Mary's was destined to make the NIT before upsetting the Gonzaga in the WCC Championship. San Diego did play in the NIT and Loyola Marymount played in the CBI. The rest of the conference was left out of postseason play.
As long as the top six teams continue to find ways to win and finish with conference records of 9-7 or better, every one of them should find themselves in the postseason, with three in the NCAA Tournament. That combination would be the best overall finish in WCC history.