(Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs steamrolled Pepperdine in the WCC semifinals last night to advance to their 22nd consecutive WCC Championship game. The Zags will see a familiar face in the championship match, the Saint Mary’s Gaels.

The Gaels have second-most WCC titles behind Gonzaga and have been in eight of the last eleven championship games, including this one. Saint Mary’s had a rough start to the season before winning six of their last seven to finish second in the WCC.

The Zags finished first in the conference so they didn’t start playing in the tournament until the semifinals and when the Bulldogs finally took the court it was against the No. 8 seed, Pepperdine. Pepperdine got hot and upset Loyola Marymount and San Francisco to wind up in the semifinals. Their Cinderella story was abruptly stopped when it ran into the brick wall of Gonzaga, which won 100-74.

The Gaels finished second in the conference and so also didn’t have to play until the semifinals. They also dueled with a lower seed, No. 7 San Diego, who got hot and upset Santa Clara and BYU and took it to Saint Mary’s, which only won 69-62.

Despite the Gaels peaking at the right time, the Zags are still the overwhelming favorites. The Gaels have won eight of their last ten with those two losses coming from the Bulldogs, both of which were bad losses for Saint Mary’s. The Zags crushed the Gaels in Spokane, 94-46 and things were better but still not good in Moraga, where the Bulldogs won 69-55.

The Bulldogs are coming into this matchup as the No. 1 team in the country, earning their third-consecutive 30-win season last night with their victory over Pepperdine. The Zags are also riding a 21-game winning streak. They were undefeated in conference play, with no teams coming within double-digits of them.

The Vegas Sportsbook and ESPN Basketball Power Index agree this game won’t close and Gonzaga will win. Vegas puts the Zags at 14.5 point favorites and the ESPN Basketball Power Index gives the Bulldogs a 92.7 percent chance of winning.

Should the Zags win, it will be their seventh-consecutive WCC title.

The championship game will be played at the New Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tipoff is at 6:00 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.  

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