BYU leaves the Mountain West Conference for the WCC after the season, taking with it plenty of momentum and notoriety after what's already been an historic NCAA tournament run for the program thus far.
The arrival of the Cougars also comes at a time when five of the eight current WCC schools went to postseason tournaments for the first time. WCC champ Gonzaga scored an upset win in the NCAA tournament against St. John's, and San Francisco and Santa Clara face off tonight for the right to go to the CIT semifinals. A Dons win would also mean five WCC teams compiling 20-win seasons for the first time.
The next step for a conference that sent only Gonzaga this year to the tournament after Saint Mary's was snubbed is to raise the bar. The programs at Portland, San Francisco and Santa Clara have seen improvement, and the addition of BYU should raise that bar even higher.
"We have to do better at our conference to get an at-large bid, and that's directly related to recruiting and scheduling," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "As a whole, we have to help each other out."
Saint Mary's found out once again that there simply isn't a lot of room for error when it comes to earning an at-large bid out of the WCC. A loss to last-place San Diego helped derail its season, with San Francisco coach Rex Walters warning after losing to the Gaels the previous game that it would take only one in-conference slip-up to put them back on the bubble.
Bringing on BYU might help the WCC turn into an annual two-bid conference. It also puts pressure on the other teams to get to that level.
"We're adding a team that's going to make it more difficult with their success and ability to have success," Keating said.