Ready or not, the West Coast Athletic Conference will join the postseason madness known as the conference basketball tournament to determine the team that will get an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament next March.
At least, the WCAC hopes there will be some postseason madness.
No WCAC team has been considered a true power since the University of San Francisco in the early 1980s, and the league's lack of recognition has been a sore point.
So the postseason tournament was a topic of interest during Wednesday's WCAC media day at Loyola Marymount.
Commissioner Michael Gilleran said he has mixed emotions about the tournament, particularly if one team is clearly the league's best throughout the season but still has to go through playoffs. But he said that conference athletic directors and coaches are generally in favor of it.
Gilleran added that a tournament was approved several years ago, but then USF briefly dropped its program, creating an odd number of teams. The new USF program is now in its second year in the eight-team conference.
"Quite frankly, I don't know what to think," Gilleran said. "We could have a team go 0-14, play 120 good minutes and represent us in the NCAA tournament. That doesn't happen very often. I do know we won't lose box office due to lack of interest at schools that may be out of the league race."
Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said: "I know one thing. I have a playoff club. We'll be in the playoffs."
Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick, whose teams have won five WCAC titles in seven years, said a tournament provides two positive aspects. "It gives you two more games, if you reach the semifinals," he said. "And it gives hopes and aspirations to everybody. With most conferences playing tournaments, most of the teams in America now go into postseason with a chance to win the national title."
Conference tournament openers will be played at the schools with the four best records. The winners will advance to San Francisco, where the semifinals and final will be held March 6-7.
"We want to try it," Gilleran said. "We want to see if it gives us a shot in the arm."
The WCAC could use the boost. Despite its conference champion status in past seasons, Pepperdine has been shown little regard by the NCAA selection committee, being pitted against Atlantic Coast Conference teams in its last four NCAA appearances.
San Diego was made a slight favorite, although the league was described as extremely even. With most of the teams trying to replace graduated stars, San Diego has the WCAC's premier big man in brawny 7-foot Scott Thompson. Pepperdine lost four of its top six players but has forwards Eric White and Levy Middlebrooks. Loyola has to replace the highest-scoring backcourt in the country, Keith Smith and Forrest McKenzie, but its front line of center Vic Lazzaretti and forwards Mike Yoest and Mark Armstrong is back. WCAC Commissioner Michael Gilleran said the balance of power remains in the Southern California triumvirate "until we see different." . . . Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said he likes the 19-foot 9-inch, three-point circle. "It's a legitimate shot. Any of our players can make it. It's not a gimmick, it's not like you need a specialist like a field goal kicker."