Cougars will play St. Mary's twice before facing Gonzaga.
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Brigham Young University's entrance into the West Coast Conference hasn't just changed the league's competitive balance. It has also changed the schedule, and rather drastically.
As fans across the league are discovering, there are quite a few quirks, and there's no "rotation" as in past years when everyone would play seven games in January and start over in February.
For instance, BYU plays Loyola Marymount twice within two weeks and San Diego twice within 16 days.
The Cougars will play St. Mary's twice before they play Gonzaga once.
And St. Mary's plays four straight home games, beginning with Monday's 87-72 win over San Francisco, then plays four of its next five on the road.
Jeff Tourial, the WCC's Director of Communications and New Media, said a nine-team model makes things "more complicated" when it comes to scheduling. Using the same computer software program that the NBA and other conferences use to generate the schedule, the WCC has to take into account a few of its own guidelines no more than one Monday league game per team, and no more than three straight road games, for example.
The league had to start earlier than ever this season (in late December), and will begin its conference tournament in Las Vegas earlier than almost everyone else (Feb. 29) to accommodate its TV partner, ESPN.
"It is a pretty complex situation that has a lot of variables," Tourial explained. "From there, the computer runs it and we triple-check to make sure all our guidelines are met. At the end of the day, though, everybody plays everybody twice."
ESPN college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi has 10 teams from the West making the NCAA Tournament in his latest Bracketology projections, including three teams from the West Coast Conference (BYU, Gonzaga and St. Mary's) and just two from the Pac-12 (Cal and Stanford).
The Cougars are an 11 seed in Lunardi's latest projections, and would play in Albuquerque at The Pit against No. 6 Seton Hall.
A possible second-round game would pit BYU against former Cougar assistant Dave Rice's UNLV Rebels.
BYU has played or will play eight of Lunardi's tournament-bound teams: Buffalo, Nevada, Baylor, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Wisconsin and Weber State.
Calling it a glorified mid-major is a bit rough, but there's no doubting that the Pac-12 has continued its downward slide in college basketball this season. The league is currently ranked No. 9 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), behind all the so-called power conferences and the Mountain West, Atlantic-10 and Missouri Valley conferences.
The WCC is 10th in the RPI, just decimal points behind the Pac-12.
Colorado has shown promise early, winning its three league games by a total of 69 points; Oregon State (11-5) has improved, but the Beavers have played the 273rd toughest schedule in the country.