The Saint Mary’s Gaels have gone to the last two NCAA tournaments—the first back-to-back bids in school history. The USF Dons haven’t been to the Big Dance since 1998—the school’s only NCAA tournament bid since the program returned from its self-imposed exile in 1985.
If the Gaels are going to make it three straight trips to March Madness or if the Dons want to taste tournament play for just the second time in more than 30 years, their task is a simple one: Win the West Coast Conference tournament, which opens Thursday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Rex Walters’ Dons are the No. 3 seed for the tourney and will open play Saturday in the quarterfinals against No. 6 seed San Diego. Randy Bennett’s Gaels are seeded fourth and play Saturday against fifth-seeded Pepperdine.
This preview will take a look at the four Bay Area teams involved (we’ll also look at No. 8-seeded Pacific and ninth-seeded Santa Clara).
Here’s the schedule
Game 1: (10) Loyola Marymount vs. (7) Portland, 6 p.m. (BYUtv)
Game 2: (9) Santa Clara vs. (8) Pacific, 30 minutes after Game 1 (BYUtv)
Game 3: (6) San Diego vs. (3) USF, noon (BYUtv)
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. (2) BYU, 30 minutes after Game 3 (BYUtv)
Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. (1) Gonzaga, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 6: (5) Pepperdine vs. (4) Saint Mary’s, 30 minutes after Game 5 (ESPN2)
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 30 minutes after Game 7 (ESPN or ESPN2)
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m. (ESPN)