The 2012 NCAA Tournament field is set and gets going later this week with the First Four in Dayton. Sunday and Monday will feature plenty of chatter about who got snubbed and who did not deserve a spot in the Dance. For the West Coast Conference however, Sunday is another step in the league's ever improving reputation.
Gonzaga has been the top dog in the conference for the last decade and when people have thought of the WCC, it is generally Gonzaga that comes to mind. However, quietly the Saint Mary's Gaels have steadily joined the conversation at the top of the conference. The Gaels made a Sweet 16 run two years ago and finally broke through in the conference this season, winning the regular season and postseason conference championships. Add in BYU in its first year with the league and the WCC is suddenly a power on the West Coast.
Although the bottom of the WCC remains quite weak, the top of the conference is strong enough to join the Mountain West in discussions about who is better than the Pac-12 this year. The Pac-12 has been struggling in recent years, with this season being the worst of it. The WCC will send three teams to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, while the Pac-12 landed two teams.
This is only the second time the WCC has sent three teams. Whatever the future of BYU as a member of the WCC, the conference is improving in the middle of the pack with schools like Loyola Marymount and San Francisco putting together strong seasons. While neither is likely to earn an NIT bid, they could end up in the CBI postseason tournament. If they can build on their recent success, the WCC could develop some serious depth moving forward.
Brackets on the brain? Us too! Play Yahoo! Tourney Pick'em and be a part of the craziest month of college basketball. It is fun, easy, and free. For more coverage of St. Mary's in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, visit the SB Nation Bay Area NCAA Tournament Storystream. Click here for a link to our 2012 NCAA Bracket. And of course, make sure and get your printable bracket!