Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury is not particularly happy that his team has to play in the West Coast Conference basketball tournament, because the Waves have already won the regular-season championship.
On the other hand, Loyola Marymount Coach Jay Hillock is glad to be anywhere after the Lions, the WCC's second-place team, started by losing five consecutive conference games.
University of San Diego Coach Hank Egan, whose team has split two games with each of six other WCC teams and swept only last-place Portland, thinks the tournament may be the best way to settle matters. He said this year was the first time he hadn't been asked if the tournament was a good idea. "That's good," he added. "It means we've grown up."
The fifth annual WCC tournament begins today at Santa Clara's Toso Pavilion, and Hillock may have said it best when he predicted that "any one of the eight teams could win this."
Portland, which finished the regular season 5-22 overall and 3-11 in WCC play, may be an exception to Hillock's forecast--but perhaps not. The Pilots will play Pepperdine (19-8, 13-1), which has won 13 consecutive games, at 6 p.m.
San Diego (16-11, 8-6) will open against Gonzaga (14-13, 5-9) at 11:30 a.m., and Loyola Marymount (16-13, 9-5), which has won 10 in a row, will face University of San Francisco (11-16, 4-10) at 2 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m., St. Mary's (11-16, 7-7) will play Santa Clara (16-12, 7-7).
Semifinal games are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The championship game is set for 9 p.m. Monday.
Only the WCC tournament winner is assured of a berth in the NCAA tournament, and Asbury said he wishes his team did not have to prove itself again against other conference teams.
Pepperdine swept the WCC's top awards. Doug Christie was named player of the year, Dana Jones freshman of the year and Tom Asbury coach of the year. The only other time one WCC team won all three awards was when Pepperdine did it in 1985. That year, Dwayne Polee was the top player, Levy Middlebrooks the standout freshman and Jim Harrick the leading coach. . . . The all-WCC team: Eric Bamberger, St. Mary's; Jarrod Davis, Gonzaga; Geoff Lear, Christie, Pepperdine; Terrell Lowery, Loyola; Tim Owens, USF; Richard Petruska, Loyola; Ron Reis and Rhea Taylor, both Santa Clara, and Kelvin Woods, San Diego. Lear is the only repeater from last year, and there are no seniors on the team. . . . SportsChannel will televise the tournament's first six games, and the championship game will be on ESPN.