Since the West Coast Conference tournament moved to Las Vegas in 2009, only three schools have reached the championship game.
That won’t change this year.
Top-ranked Gonzaga will make its 24th consecutive appearance in the WCC tournament final when it meets second-seeded BYU on Tuesday night. The Cougars (20-5) advanced with an 82-77 overtime victory against third-seeded Pepperdine late Monday night.
The Bulldogs (25-0) defeated fourth-seeded Saint Mary’s 78-55 in the other semifinal. The Gaels are the only other WCC to reach the tourney title game in the past 13 editions.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of his players, “These guys have shown all year how competitive they are, and as we moved toward the NCAA Tournament — it was taken away from them last year — I think we’ll get even an increased effort moving forward.”
The Bulldogs, who had eight days off entering their semifinal matchup, showed no signs of rust.
After Saint Mary’s scored on its opening possession, the Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run and were never caught.
All five Gonzaga starters scored in double-figures, led by Drew Timme’s 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Joel Ayayi added 16 points, Jalen Suggs scored 15, Corey Kispert had 14 and Andrew Nembhard totaled 10.
“It’s just the flow of the game, that’s what’s so great about this team and the style of play,” said Timme, who added eight rebounds and four assists. “None of the guys care who scores. All we care about is winning. It starts at the top with the coach and the system making sure everybody gets involved. It really could be anybody.”
Today’s Top Expert Picks
One more victory and the Bulldogs will become just the fifth team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since Indiana completed the last perfect championship season in 1975-76. The most recent team the went unbeaten in the regular season was Kentucky in 2014-15, when the Wildcats lost in the national semifinals to Wisconsin.
BYU overcame a 12-point, first-half deficit to reach the WCC final for the fourth time in the past eight years. The Cougars have yet to win a WCC title.
BYU’s Alex Barcello scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Pepperdine. Barcello tallied eight of the Cougars’ 10 points in overtime, going 6 of 6 from the free-throw line after making their lone field goal of the extra period on the first possession.
Matt Haarms, the Cougars’ 7-foot-3 center, added 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and guard Brandon Averette totaled 16 points and five assists.
“We’re not scared of any team,” Haarms said. “We know every single team in this conference is dangerous. It doesn’t really matter to me who we’re dealing with or what team we play, but we know every team is capable.”
Gonzaga and BYU last met Feb. 8 in Provo, Utah, with the Bulldogs posting an 82-71 victory — the closest a WCC opponent came to beating them this season. Gonzaga won the opening matchup 86-69 on Jan. 7 in Spokane, Wash.
“Ever since we lost to Gonzaga, we’re trying to get better at physicality, communication and protecting the ball,” BYU guard Trevin Knell said. “We emphasize that every single day, we touch points on it, and I feel like this coming week’s going to be a huge jump for us in these three categories.”
–Field Level Media
Free Pick: Jalen Suggs Over 12.5 Points -127