The defending champion Gonzaga Bulldogs will square off with the Saint Mary's Gaels for the fourth straight season in the championship game of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
The rivalry between the Bulldogs and Gaels is continuously growing into one of the most compelling in the nation. The Gaels, which shared last year's regular season crown with Gonzaga, captured their first outright conference championship since 1989 to earn the top seed. Saint Mary's advanced to the finals with a 83-78 victory over the feisty San Francisco Dons.
Gonzaga lost the battle, as it had its 11-year streak of regular season conference championships snapped this year, but is in great position to win the war tonight. The Bulldogs' appearance in tonight's championship game set a new NCAA record, as it is their 15th-straight appearance in a conference championship. Gonzaga made it to the title game by handling the banged up BYU Cougars, 77-58, on Saturday night.
Each team defended its home floor in the season-series in 2011-2012 with lopsided double-digit victories. The Zags won the more recent meeting, 73-59, in Spokane.
Both program's have found success in recent history by having talented point guards run the show and guide them to success. The newest edition of the point guard battle in the Gonzaga-Saint Mary's rivalry features Kevin Pangos and Matthew Dellavedova.
Pangos was named this season's WCC Newcomer of the Year after he tortured opponents with lights out three-point shooting all season. The rookie point guard verified his belonging on the All-WCC Team after he poured in 30 points versus BYU on Saturday. Pangos's first year of collegiate basketball was made easier by his excellent supporting cast. Center Robert Sacre is the WCC Defensive Player of the Year, Elias Harris is a member of the all-league roster, and Gary Bell Jr. joined Pangos on the All-WCC Freshman team. Coach Mark Few will be seeking his 10th WCC Tournament title.
Dellavedova is not quite as explosive as his counterpart, but he is quite effective. SMC's junior was named the WCC Player of the Year after he pushed the Gaels through the season with scrappy and consistent play. Dellavedova scored 17 points and handed out six assists in SMC's post-season opener versus USF on Saturday. The Gaels will also expect their star forward Rob Jones to have a huge impact in this one. Jones averaged a double-double this season, and continued a streak of three-straight double-doubles on Saturday as he netted 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in SMC's win over San Francisco. The Gaels will be without their third leading scorer Stephen Holt as he continues to rehab a knee injury. The supporting cast of SMC will need to greatly step up to fill the gap Holt's absence as has left.