2011 West Coast Conference Tournament Preview: First Round Matchups & NCAA Odds

The 2011 West Coast Conference Tournament kicks off at 6:00pm pacific tonight at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The opening round matchups feature Portland versus Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine versus San Diego. Tomorrow night the winner of Portland-Loyola Marymount will face fourth-seeded Santa Clara, while the winner of Pepperdine-San Diego will face third-seeded San Francisco.

Portland enters tonight's matchup as a 6 1/2 point favorite over LMU. Pepperdine stands as a 4 1/2 point favorite over San Diego. Of the teams playing tonight, fifth place Portland is getting the most surprising odds to win the tournament as they sit at 9-to-1 to win the whole thing. For comparison's sake, third place San Francisco is currently sitting at 16-to-1. The Pilots did finish 20-10 to USF's 16-13 mark but the Dons did a much better job in conference play. I'd be more inclined to roll the dice on USF in a gambling situation than I would Portland.

We'll have a running WCC tournament story stream throughout the weekend's games. Additionally, you can get a Gonzaga perspective on this weekend's games in SB Nation Seattle's WCC tournament story stream. Below are more thorough Sports Network previews of each of tonight's games including all the nitty gritty details.

Loyola Marymount (10-20) vs. Portland (20-10)
GAME NOTES: The 25th-annual West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway this evening in Las Vegas, as the fifth-seeded Portland Pilots take on the eighth-seeded Loyola Marymount Lions in first-round action from the Orleans Arena. The winner of this game will move on to Saturday's quarterfinal action against four-seed Santa Clara.

The Pilots totaled 20 wins during the regular season, but found the West Coast Conference slate a little more challenging, sporting an even 7-7 mark after splitting its last eight games.

The Lions won just 10 games on the season with a mere two coming in- conference. LMUdropped three straight to close out the season and seven of its last eight overall.

The Pilots have closed the gap in the series to 42-41 thanks to a pair of wins this season. Portland outlasted Loyola Marymount at home on January 13th, 79-78 (2OT) and then blew out the Lions in Los Angeles a month later, 71-48.

Loyola Marymount has suffered some narrow losses on the season and has been snake-bitten at times, including a 94-88 double-overtime loss to Santa Clara and a 77-75 narrow setback at San Francisco to close out the year. In fact, seven of the team's 12 league losses have come by a combined 23 points. Despite several injuries down the stretch, the Lions still have some dangerous personnel, starting with WCC Honorable Mention Drew Viney. The junior forward missed some time with migraines, but came on strong as the season came to a close and currently leads the team in both scoring (16.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg). Senior guard Vernon Teel, also a WCC Honorable Mention is both a scorer (12.8 ppg) and solid distributor (3.8 apg) while All-WCC freshman point guard Anthony Ireland (10.1 ppg) rounds out the top offensive threats.

Portland has posted back-to-back 20-win seasons and has amassed 41 combined wins over that time, marking the most in school history. Despite averaging a modest 71.3 ppg, the Pilots are an efficient offensive squad, shooting .462 from the floor overall. That number is enhanced by a .420 mark from behind the arc, good for third nationally. The team is fueled by a pair of All-WCC First- Team members in senior forward Luke Sikma and junior guard Nemanji Mitrovic. Sikma (13.3 ppg), the team's all-time rebounding leader (969) leads theWCC in rebounding (10.6 rpg) and double-doubles (14). Mitrovic (13.7 ppg) ranks fifth nationally in three-point accuracy (.471, 90-of-191). Jared Stohl (13.5 ppg) is another sniper, hitting .435 from behind the arc (83-of-191).

The Pilots won both games against the Lions this season and there isn't any reason to think anything will change in the postseason. Behind the play of Sikma and Mitrovic, expect Portland to move on, while Loyola Marymount's season comes to an end.

GAME NOTES: The 25th-annual West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway this evening in Las Vegas, as the fifth-seeded Portland Pilots take on the eighth-seeded Loyola Marymount Lions in first-round action from the Orleans Arena. The winner of this game will move on to Saturday's quarterfinal action against four-seed Santa Clara.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,845) - Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: LMU 7-7, Portland 13-3. Away Record: LMU 2-12, Portland 7-6. Neutral Record: LMU 1-1, Portland 0-1. Conference Record: LMU 2-12, Portland 7-7. Series Record: Loyola Marymount leads, 42-41.

Friday, March 4th, 9:00 p.m. (et)

PREDICTION: Portland 71, Loyola Marymount 58

San Diego (6-23) vs. Pepperdine (11-20)
GAME NOTES: First-round action in the 25th-annual West Coast Conference will close out in Las Vegas this evening, when the sixth-seeded Pepperdine Waves take on the seventh-seeded San Diego Toreros. The winner of this contest will move on to Saturday's quarterfinal round against three-seed San Francisco.

Wins have been few and far between for the Toreros this season. San Diego has just six victories on the season, with just two coming in West Coast Conference play. The team has not won more than one game at a time, and enters the tournament with losses in five of the last six regular-season games.

The Waves have had a litte more success on the season, posting 11 overall wins and a 5-9 conference mark. However, the team took a downward spiral as the regular season came to a close, with losses in four straight games. Still, one more victory will give Pepperdine its most overall victories since the 2004-05 campaign.

The Waves have dominated the series with San Diego. This is the 90th all-time meeting, with Pepperdine leading 55-34. The Waves swept the regular-season series, posting a 20-point rout in Malibu on January 6th (75-55) and a seven- point overtime victory in San Diego on February 5th (70-63).

There haven't been many highlights for San Diego this season, but a big win over powerhouse Saint Mary's in mid-February was certainly the apex of the season. Still, the numbers lack any real teeth at either end of the floor, with San Diego averaging a mere 60.2 ppg on a meager .419 shooting. Darian Norris is the top scoring threat, but the guard is converting just 38 percent from the floor, while averaging 10.3 ppg. Matt Dorr is next in line at 9.1 ppg. The team has really struggle this season on the boards, getting outrebounded by almost seven rebounds per game (6.8). Young center Chris Manresa leads the way in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and blocked shots (22).

The Waves lost prolific scorer Keion Bell (18.9 ppg), but Mychel Thompson and Lorne Jackson have picked up the slack. Thompson ranked third in the conference in scoring this year at 14.4 ppg, while Jackson was fifth at 12.7 ppg. The pair earned All-WCC Honorable Mention as a result, but the loss of Bell has certainly handcuffed this team down the stretch. Bell was suspended for the year for conduct detrimental to the team. The offensive numbers obviously could have been much better had the Waves been a full strength all season long. Pepperdine still possesses the ability to score with Thompson and Jackson, but has struggled this season preventing the opposition from doing the same. The Waves are allowing foes to net 73.7 ppg on .456 shooting.

The Waves swept the Toreros this season and they should be able to complete the trifecta in Vegas this evening. While not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch, Pepperdine still has more than enough to move on and into the next round.

GAME NOTES: First-round action in the 25th-annual West Coast Conference will close out in Las Vegas this evening, when the sixth-seeded Pepperdine Waves take on the seventh-seeded San Diego Toreros. The winner of this contest will move on to Saturday's quarterfinal round against three-seed San Francisco.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,845) - Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: San Diego 5-9, Pepperdine 7-7. Away Record: San Diego 0-12, Pepperdine 2-13. Neutral Record: San Diego 1-2, Pepperdine 2-0. Conference Record: San Diego 2-12, Pepperdine 5-9. Series Record: Pepperdine leads, 55-34.

Friday, March 4th, 11:30 p.m. (et)

PREDICTION: Pepperdine 68, San Diego 57

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