The 2011 West Coast Conference Championship game is in the books and the Gonzaga Bulldogs have punched their ticket for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The St. Mary's Gaels battled foul trouble all night long and came out on the short end of the stick in the WCC title game. The Gaels now find themselves in a bit of an odd position. Saint Mary's made a late season addition to their schedule and now will host Weber State this Friday. They cannot afford to lose this game, but they also need to figure out how to regroup from this disheartening loss to Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs did not seal the game until the final three minutes, but the Gonzaga victory just seemed inevitable at times. While SMC was able to capture the lead at the 12:13 mark of the second half, they couldn't get the lead past a single point. Gonzaga was able to wear the Gaels down inside thanks to Rob Jones' foul trouble. Jones was almost entirely ineffective tonight save for a couple of baskets. He picked up three fouls, including one technical, midway through the first half and sat out the final ten minutes of that half. While he didn't get his fourth foul until halfway through the second half, he played incredibly tentative basketball. He finished with six points and nine rebounds but disappeared for long stretches of the game.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of this week and Selection Sunday play out. The Gaels played tonight's matchup quite close but a late Gonzaga run resulted in a twelve point Gaels loss. The selection committee hopefully saw this game, but it's entirely possible some of them didn't and will just view it as a bad loss for SMC. As a member of a mid-major, their top 50 RPI and 22 wins (likely 23 after Friday's Weber State game) might not be enough to lock up an at-large bid, even with this new expanded field. We'll be here all week keeping an eye on various conference tournament outcomes and what they might mean for the Gaels 2011 NCAA tournament chances.