College Basketball: Loyola Marymount's Improbable Run in WCC Tourney Continues

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2013

Feb. 9, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Anthony Ireland (3) brings the ball down court during a game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the first half at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There are nine teams in the West Coast Conference and Loyola Marymount finished the regular season in ninth place with a 1-15 conference record. 

Using normal, everyday logic, no one gave the Lions a shot in hell of winning their first conference tournament game, let alone their second or third. 

The Lions brought a 14-game losing streak into the Orleans Arena this week for the WCC Tournament, which has the most confusing bracket setup of any conference tournament. 

Loyola Marymount has won three games in Las Vegas over the last three days while the top two seeds, Gonzaga and St. Mary's still have not played a single game. 

On Wednesday, the No. 9 seed Loyola Marymount took on the No. 8 seed Portland in the opening game of the WCC Tournament. 

Against a team that they lost to twice during conference play by a total of 13 points, the Lions were in control throughout and they booked a spot in the next round against the No. 5 seed San Francisco with a 65-54 win.

By the time the second game of the Lions' remarkable campaign started, the team, coached by Max Good, had plenty of confidence flowing within their veins. 

Once again, facing a team that defeated them twice in the regular season, the Lions fought hard and were able to force an overtime period. 

In that overtime period, only nine points were scored between Loyola Marymount and the Dons of San Francisco. 

Luckily for the Lions, they were the team that scored the majority of the points in overtime as they squeaked out a 61-60 victory,

The next victim in the path of the Lions was No. 4 seed Santa Clara, a team which came into Las Vegas expecting to a victory on Friday night and to potentially challenge Gonzaga on Saturday night.

After 40 minutes of play, Loyola Marymount was the team that earned the high-profile matchup with a Gonzaga team that has thoroughly dominated the WCC all season. 

The Lions did not make life easy for their small section of fans in the stands at the Orleans Arena as they committed two inexcusable fouls in the waning seconds of the game. 

As the luck of a Cinderella team would have it, Santa Clara missed the front end of the second one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line and that miss would prove costly for the Broncos. 

After Anthony Ireland sunk one of his two free throws with two seconds remaining in the game, the Loyola Marymount fans erupted in celebration of their team's third consecutive upset in three nights. 

As Saturday's semifinal matchup with Gonzaga approaches, the national spotlight on Loyola Marymount is growing. 

While many fans across the nation will not fully accept Loyola Marymount as a Cinderella team until they beat Gonzaga, what it has accomplished already has been given national praise by certain media outlets, including SB Nation

If, and it is a big if, the Loyola Marymount Lions can upset Gonzaga they would play in the WCC Tournament final on Monday night.

Chris Dachille of WBAL-TV in Baltimore, who is also a voter in the AP Top 25, is optimistic about Loyola Marymount's chances, at least for now. 

If the Lions make an appearance in the WCC Tournament final, not only will fans of Loyola Marymount be watching the game with plenty of interest, the attention of the potential bubble teams will be solely focused on the Orleans Arena.

If Max Good's team can do the unthinkable and pull off two more victories, we will have full blown madness on our hands. 

Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.