Saint Mary's split their week, losing to Gonzaga on Thursday and beating Santa Clara on Saturday. The Gaels remain a game up on Gonzaga heading into a big week against Loyola Marymount. We break down the week that was and the week ahead for the top of the West Coast Conference. For more on the run to the NCAA tournament, check out SB Nation NCAA Basketball coverage.
The West Coast Conference is entering the home stretch of the season with everybody but Pepperdine having at least three conference games remaining. The race for the regular season conference title is heating up as Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary's in Spokane to split their season series and climb to a game and a half back of the Gaels. BYU is a game behind Gonzaga with one more matchup between the two schools up in Spokane.
SMC is in the driver's seat for the regular season conference title. Although they lost to Gonzaga on Thursday, they bounced back with a win over Santa Clara on Saturday, and are currently 12-1 in conference play. The Gaels split with Gonzaga and swept BYU while also adding in a road win over surging Loyola Marymount. Saint Mary's hosts LMU this Wednesday with a chance to complete a much needed season sweep of the Lions. SMC's remaining conference games after LMU are at Portland and at San Francisco. Those are not gimmes, but they they are not so difficult as to create any expected problems.
SMC has a non-conference game mixed in this Saturday when they travel to Kentucky to face the Murray State Racers in a Bracketbuster matchup. Although the game has lost some luster with the Racers dropping their first game this past week, taking down Murray State could still provide a little bit of luster to the Gaels postseason profile. The Gaels are just about a lock for an at-large bid if they lose in the WCC tournament, but every extra win helps. Murray State can benefit more with a win given their relatively poor RPI, but SMC can keep boosting their profile with a win.
Gonzaga might have just about solidified their NCAA tournament chances with their big win over Saint Mary's on Thursday. They followed that up with a sound thumping of the surging Loyola Marymount Lions. Gonzaga now sits at 20-4 with an RPI of 17. Barring a collapse down the stretch and an early exit from the WCC tournament, Gonzaga seems to be in excellent shape.
The WCC is looking at two bids and possibly a third one. Saint Mary's and Gonzaga have all but locked up at-large bids and Brigham Young is looking like it is on the right side of the bubble for now. Gonzaga might have locked up an NCAA tournament appearance with their home win over Saint Mary's. BYU could solidify their own opportunity with a win on the road against Gonzaga on February 23.
Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and BYU will all enter the WCC tournament as the favorites to pull it out, although Loyola Marmount could end up spoiling somebody's chances. LMU was on a strong run but were thumped handily by Gonzaga on Saturday. They travel to Saint Mary's this Wednesday, but it would appear their only chance of an NCAA tournament berth is by winning the WCC tournament. LMU got a huge road win over BYU earlier this season, but an RPI of 107 is likely too much to overcome over the next three weeks.
West Coast Conference Standings
(updated 2.12.2012 at 12:31 AM PST)