The West Coast Conference tournament figured to look something like a victory parade.
That’s because everyone expected Gonzaga to sweep into Las Vegas with an undefeated record, then collect a few more accolades on the way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But the outlook changed when the Bulldogs lost to Brigham Young last weekend.
As BYU Coach Dave Rose said: “It’s an interesting spot that we are in.”
When play begins at the Orleans Arena on Friday, fourth-ranked Gonzaga still will be a heavy favorite, but will feel pressure to sweep the field and secure that top spot in the West that had all been handed to the Bulldogs before their only loss of the season.
Though Saint Mary’s — the WCC’s second seed — appears to be safe in terms of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the Gaels could use another quality win to improve their place in the bracket.
“We’re definitely feeling good about our team, but the best way to reach our goal is to win the Vegas tournament,” guard Emmett Naar said. “That’s our mind-set right now.”
Third-seeded BYU has even greater motivation.
The Cougars gave themselves a reason to dream about March Madness with that 79-71 victory over Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash.
They pulled off the upset by way of 20 points off turnovers and 15 more on second-chance shots. Now, they’re looking to be big winners along the Strip.
Play will continue through the weekend and — with no games Sunday — conclude Tuesday night.
Pacific outscored Pep-perdine, 25-10, in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a rout and beat the Waves, 73-55, in a first-round game at the Orleans Arena. The ninth-seeded Tigers (10-20, 5-13) were led by guard Chelsea Lidy’s 16 points. Pepperdine (7-23, 5-13) was led by forward Yasmine Robinson-Bacote’s 18 points and 13 rebounds.
San Francisco 80, Loyola Marymount 67: Anna Seilund scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace the Dons (18-12, 11-7). Cheyanne Wallace had 19 points for the Lions (14-6, 9-9). Jackie Johnson added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.