Pepperdine and Gonzaga Love the New Format
by James Burns
I would like to say that this year’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament from the West Coast Conference is up for grabs.
Especially with the departure of Dan Dickau, Gonzaga’s All-World guard, and a revamped WCC tournament format.
But it isn’t.
Even with postseason moves and changes, the road to the tournament still runs through Malibu, Calif. (Pepperdine) and Spokane, Wash. (Gonzaga).
Following the conclusion of the 2001-02 WCC Tournament, league officials decided to change things up in hopes of making the conference more competitive.
And rightfully so.
Gonzaga and Pepperdine have outclassed and outplayed the rest of the conference for years, recently sharing the conference regular season crown with a 13-1 record. The next closest teams were both Santa Clara and San Francisco, both of whom finished with 8-6 records.
However, league officials forgot one thing during their summer talks – they forgot to make the conference more competitive.
The WCC announced it was going to change the format of its postseason tourney. Instead of the traditional draw (No. 1 vs. No. 8, and so on), league officials altered the tournament to a “Play-in” format.
The “Play-in” format will pit the No. 5 through No. 8 seeds against each other in the first round, with the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds waiting in the quarterfinals with byes. The No. 1 and No.2 seeds will receive a bye into the semi-final round.
This new format, once again, caters to the top teams in the WCC – Gonzaga and Pepperdine. Only this time, they are gift-wrapping the trophy and putting a big red bow on it.
Think about: If Gonzaga and Pepperdine live up to their billing (both were preseason favorites to win the WCC), that would leave them as the conference’s top two seeds heading into the tournament.
Now when we do the math – minus one, carry the two, ah-hah – all Pepperdine and Gonzaga would need to do is beat up on a team that has had very little time to rest and played either one or two hard fought games.
Please! Gonzaga and Pepperdine win those semi-final contests handily, especially if they’re rested and ready.
League officials have done very little to benefit their conference.
Instead of encouraging the postseason concept of “anything goes”, they have robbed floundering programs like Loyola Marymount and Portland (and the rest of the WCC for that matter) of upset opportunities.
And a shot at the conference’s only automatic bid. Somewhere in Spokane and Malibu, Gonzaga and Pepperdine basketball players are already dancing and practicing cutting down the nets.