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West Coast First Round Preview

March 5, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

West Coast First Round Preview

Preview by Mitch Schneider

The 2004 West Coast Conference Tournament looks more like a reality dating show than a major athletic event, as seven hopefuls will look to scratch and claw their way for the right to meet up with conference-darling Gonzaga in the finale (assuming the ‘Dawgs win their semifinal game). Still, it should make for some interesting television and water-cooler fodder, even if the Fox network has nothing to do with it.

The WCC Tournament, set to tip-off Friday night, features the top-seeded Bulldogs (25-2, 14-0 in the WCC) and seven other schools that will likely be headed home or to the NIT if they fail to win this year’s crown. To make matters even more complicated for the WCC proletariat, the conference’s top two teams – ‘Zaga and St. Mary’s (18-11, 9-5) – have first and second round byes, making any potential upsets this weekend all the more difficult.

Fear not though, WCC faithful, as anything can happen at this stage of the year. And if you’re still worried that your team (not named “Gonzaga”) will not win the WCC title and not make this year’s NCAA Tournament, keep in mind that the favored Bulldogs have never gone an entire season without losing to a fellow West Coast team – good news for those Torero, Lion and Pilot fans out there.

That being said, here’s a quick preview of first round action in the 2004 WCC Tournament:

(6) Portland vs. (7) Loyola Marymount
Portland (11-16, 5-9) swept its season series with LMU (14-13, 5-9), winning 77-68 at the Lions’ den in January, and 74-59 at home in February. Loyola converted just 37% of its shots in those two losses (going 6-for-26 from three-point range), and turned the ball over 33 times. The Lions also had trouble defending Pilots guard Eugene Jeter, who averaged 18.5 points in the two victories, draining 9-of-11 shots from behind the arc.

While Portland has kept LMU in check this year, the Pilots enter Friday’s first-round match-up losers of five of their last six contests. Over that stretch, Portland has struggled to defend the basket, surrendering over 75 points per game. If LMU can take advantage of the Pilots’ defensive woes and continue to ride the hot hands of forwards Keith Kincade (17.0 ppg last four games) and Sherman Gay (15.6 ppg this season), the Lions may pull off the upset.

Hoopville prediction: LMU 68, Portland 65

(5) Santa Clara vs. (8) San Diego
As fate would have it, San Diego (4-25, 1-13) – a team that has lost 17 of its last 18 games – will face in Friday’s first round the only squad it has beaten in 2004, Santa Clara (14-15, 6-8). That’s a good sign for the lowly Toreros, who have managed as many wins this entire season as WCC-leader Gonzaga collected in just the past thirteen days.

Even better for San Diego is the fact that Santa Clara has cooled off considerably after starting West Coast play with five wins in eight games. Since the Broncos 74-69 win over the Toreros on Feb. 5, Santa Clara has dropped five of six including its upset loss at San Diego four weeks ago. In diagnosing what ails the Broncos, look no further than their stagnant offense which has averaged less than 60 points a night over their last five contests, and has shot under 41% from the floor this season, dead-last in the league.

Still, don’t count out a Santa Clara team which features a terrific backcourt in Doron Perkins (18.7 ppg last four games) and Kyle Bailey (11.7 ppg, 3.7 apg this season) – especially against San Diego.

Hoopville prediction: Santa Clara 72, San Diego 59

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