Dan Wetzel:

Jeff Eisenberg

WCC Tournament: Double bye favors Gonzaga, St. Mary's

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Conference tournament play began Tuesday, kicking off a 12-day mad scramble for NCAA tournament berths. Up next in our previews is the West Coast Conference, which could feature another Gonzaga-St. Mary's clash in the finals unless Portland or LMU spring an upset.

West Coast Conference Tournament

Date: March 5-8

Site: Las Vegas

First Round
No. 5 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 8 Pepperdine
No. 6 San Diego vs. No. 7 Santa Clara

No. 3 Portland vs. San Diego/Santa Clara
No. 4 San Francisco vs. LMU/Pepperdine

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. USF/LMU/Pepperdine
No. 2 St. Mary's vs. Portland/San Diego/Santa Clara

Favorite: Gonzaga (25-5, 12-2)

Contenders: St. Mary's (24-5, 11-3), Portland (20-9, 10-4), LMU (16-14, 7-7)

Did you know: Portland, thought to be Gonzaga's toughest competition in league at one point this season, will be without leading scorer Nik Raivio as a result of an achilles strain.

Outlook: The double-bye format certainly favors Gonzaga and St. Mary's, which would only need to win their respective semifinals to meet in Monday night's title game. Gonzaga is playing for a top-four NCAA tournament seed and a spot in the Spokane Regional, while St. Mary's may need the automatic bid to make the field of 65 since a third loss to the Zags could prove fatal. If there's a WCC darkhorse, watch out for LMU, which is finally healthy and only a couple weeks removed from toppling Gonzaga.

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