WCC Odds, State of Conference Betting Report: Four Bids Possible in 2023?
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Malachi Smith (Gonzaga)
It’s a late January night and you want to bet on some West Coast basketball. Look no further than the West Coast Conference, which could be looked at as one of the more underrated conferences in college basketball.
Getting to know these teams can be tough for those who live in the middle or eastern parts of the country, and the conference aligns a bit differently this year despite having the usual suspects at the top.
Last season, the WCC received three bids to the NCAA tournament: Gonzaga (No. 1 seed), Saint Mary’s (No. 5 seed) and San Francisco (No. 10 seed). None of these teams made it past the Sweet 16, but Gonzaga came away with two wins and Saint Mary’s earned one.
This season, the conference looks to expand upon its success on the national scene and propel more than three teams into the field of 68 come March.
Once again, the Gonzaga Bulldogs look to be the best team in the West Coast Conference. However, they’re not nearly as dominant as they were last season.
Drew Timme headlines the group as a potential Wooden Award winner. Julian Strawther, Nolan Hickman, Anton Watson and Rasir Bolton round out the starting lineup, with Malachi Smith and Hunter Sallis being the predominant bench players.
Efton Reid III has seemingly fallen out of the rotation after not meshing well with the rest of the lineup and struggling to fill the role as backup center.
The team has looked better in recent games, as the Bulldogs came away with top-100 KenPom victories over Kent State, Washington and Alabama in the last two weeks.
As usual, the Zags have a prolific offense, but defense will be a concern for the remainder of the season.
The Bulldogs rank 44th in KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and much of this has to do with an inability to turn opponents over while allowing them to shoot relatively well inside the arc (51.4%).
If they can’t figure this out, they may struggle against taller teams in the WCC — like BYU — or defensive-minded programs — like Saint Mary’s.
They should still come out on top of the conference, but they have some issues to sort out before going on an NCAA tournament run.
It does always help to have one of the best players in the country leading the charge, though.
DREW TIMME ARE YOU SERIOUS ‼️ pic.twitter.com/vOpcox1t6i
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 21, 2022
The Gaels look to overcome the little brother syndrome of tailing the Zags in conference play.
This might be the season where that goal is most attainable.
The Gaels rank 22nd on KenPom and are a great defensive team, as noted above. They are holding opponents to 42.9% on 2-pointers this season and are the best defensive rebounding team in the country.
This sets them up favorably against a team like Gonzaga, which plays through the post and loves to attack the basket.
Don’t be shocked if the Gaels make a run at the conference’s regular-season title come March.
Alex Ducas and Aidan Mahaney lead the charge, with each shooting over 41% from outside the arc this season. Mitchell Saxen and Logan Johnson also average in the double digits, so the Gaels share the scoring wealth.
Kyle Bowen is also a nice complement.
The Gaels do have a relatively tough stretch of games in the next few weeks, with Wyoming on Wednesday and WCC play beginning with San Diego and Santa Clara next week. They need to prove they can walk over those teams to have a shot at the conference title.
The Cougars are near the top of the league, as usual. They are, however, only 8-5 on the season, with two games coming against unranked Division-I opponents before conference play.
They do have wins over Utah and Creighton, but losses to Utah Valley and South Dakota. This team will be up and down all season without much of a chance of beating out the Zags or Gaels for the crown.
Poor outside shooting and turnovers are their issues this season. They are shooting 42.5% of their attempts from 3-point range and only 28.7% are going in. Conversely, last season, they evenly distributed points both from 2- and 3-point range, but shot 35% from deep.
Their offensive struggles will not be sustainable against tougher competition.
They have been rebounding with the best teams in the NCAA, but this likely will not be happening once they encounter the best teams in their conference.
Luckily for them, they take on Lindenwood and Weber State in their next two affairs, with their conference opener coming against Pacific.
Either way, they need to sort the offense out because they could end up in the middle of the pack of the WCC standings quickly.
The injury to Spencer Johnson has not helped, as he shot nearly 40% from 3-point land in 2021-2022.
The Dons are a team to watch out for in the WCC because as all college basketball fans know, strength in the guards can lead to late-season success.
The Dons lost Jamaree Bouyea and Yauhen Massalski — two key contributors from last season — but they returned Khalil Shabazz, who will be First Team All-WCC.
Khalil Shabazz flipped this in OVER Chet Holmgren 😳 pic.twitter.com/DspE4p64p5
— ESPN (@espn) March 8, 2022
Tyrell Roberts transferred from Washington State and is helping lead the charge by averaging over 14 points per game.
Zane Meeks has played well as the new go-to post option. He’s shooting over 70% from inside the arc, so he’s as efficient as they come.
Otherwise, the offensive options are sparse.
This team shoots a ton of 3-pointers. The Dons rank sixth in the country in 3-point attempt percentage, with 38.6% of their points coming from beyond the arc.
That said, they’re only shooting 31.8% from outside and 54.6% from 2-point range. Shabazz did shoot up near 40% in conference play last season, so his 31.4% mark is underwhelming.
They need to shore up the inconsistency for conference play, and they have a huge test this Wednesday with Arizona State coming to San Francisco.
These two teams could make a mark in conference play, so they need these players back soon.
Santa Clara entered this season looking to fill the holes left by Jalen Williams, PJ Pipes and Josip Vrankic.
Brandin Podziemski answered the call as a transfer from Illinois. He’s been electric for the Broncos, shooting over 40% from deep and leading the team in scoring.
Brandin Podziemski’s pullup shooting is something to monitor. At 6’5, he’s a confident and fluid shooter with a quick release that will have to rely on his pullup shooting more on the NBA level to compensate for his lack of ideal burst and quick twitch athleticism pic.twitter.com/VKmxxB5qhJ
— Jam Hines (@jamontheboards) December 17, 2022
Carlos Stewart, Parker Braun, Keshawn Justice and Jaden Bediako have stepped up to fill in the gaps.
This is one team to be cognizant of in conference play. The Broncos are a well-balanced team that can crash the glass and shoot the 3. They need a bit more of an offensive presence on the inside, but they have distinguished wins over Iona and UC Irvine already.
There’s a good chance they can finish third in the league behind the Zags and Gaels and potentially earn a bid to the NCAA tournament if all goes to plan.
With the potential for four bids, the WCC could have a special season. BYU, San Francisco and Santa Clara could all fill the void outside of the top two. Portland is also a sleeper to have an eye on.