As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, it looks likely that the WCC will send at least three teams to the NCAA Men’s Tournament. Gonzaga is an absolute lock, BYU probably is as well after defeating the Zags over the weekend, and St. Mary’s is in good shape for an at-large bid, although not as rock solid as its conference comrades.
It has been a bit since the WCC received three invitations to the Big Dance, but it’s looking like it will happen in 2020.
When was the last time three WCC teams made the NCAA Tournament? For that, we have to turn back to the clock eight years to 2012.
Way back in the 2011-12 season, the WCC earned three bids to March Madness: Gonzaga, BYU and St. Mary’s, the same teams that appears to have the same feat locked up this season.
The Gaels won the regular season crown outright with a 14-2 conference record, the sixth time they ever earned a share of the title, and rode the No. 1 seed to their third-ever WCC Tournament title. St. Mary’s met arch rival Gonzaga in the tournament’s final, and an overtime was required to separate the two. In the end, though, 22 points from Matthew Dellavedova was enough for the Gaels to edge out the Bulldogs, 78-74, for the league’s auto bid.
Gonzaga ended in sole possession of second place in the regular season with a 13-3 conference mark. Despite the loss in the WCC Tournament Final, the Zags were awarded an at-large bid, their 14th-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. BYU placed third in the conference at 12-4, and Gonzaga blasted the Cougars in the WCC Tournament Semifinals, 77-58. Still, the team did enough to convince the committee it deserved a spot in the Field of 68, and it was awarded one of the final spots available.
2012 NCAA Tournament
Both St. Mary’s and Gonzaga were awarded No. 7 seeds, with SMC in the Midwest Region and the Zags in the East. As one of the last teams in the Dance, BYU was placed as a No. 14 seed and had to win a play-in game in Dayton first to enter the Round of 64.
The Gaels would bow out in the first round, falling 72-69 to No. 10 seed Purdue despite 23 points from Rob Jones and 12 more from Mitchell Young off the bench. Gonzaga lasted one round more, first waxing No. 10 seed West Virginia, 77-54, behind double-digit scoring efforts from Gary Bell, Robert Sacre, Kevin Pangos and Elias Harris. But in the second round, the Bulldogs met No. 2 seed Ohio State, and it didn’t go quite as well, ending in a 73-66 defeat. Bell and Harris combined for 34 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Buckeyes.
BYU had to play Iona in its play-in game, and it ended up being one for the ages. The Cougars faced a 25-point deficit, 49-24, with 6:12 to play in the first half. A run before the break helped BYU close the margin to 15, then the Cougars went crazy in the second half, outscoring the Gaels 38-17 in the second 20 minutes. Brigham Young would go on to win, 78-72, as Noah Hartsock scored 23 and Brandon Davies racked up a double-double on 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Things didn’t go quite as well for BYU in its second game, a date with No. 3 seed Marquette in the first round. This time, when the team was down 15 at halftime, it did not amount a comeback. Rather, the Cougars lost, 88-68, although Davies notched another double-double with 19 points and 12 boards.