After another solid week of basketball that resulted in Gonzaga taking down BYU on the road and then returning home to wax Portland, Zag fans across the nation are nervously awaiting the polls the be released tomorrow. While the ranking that matters won't be revealed until Selection Sunday, I would be lying to you if I said I didn't care much about the rankings tomorrow - and I don't really trust anyone that says they don't care, either. While a No. 1 ranking for Gonzaga would be scrutinized nationally, there is no doubting what it would mean for the program. The Bulldogs are the first mid-major that broke into the "oh, they are a power team in a mid-major conference" club and they are one of the few with staying power. Many have broken through just to flame out and a No. 1 ranking about 14 years after their first magical run would validate all the hard work that has gone into building this program.
The goal is of course to win a national championship and end the tournament with the No. 1 ranking but ending the season (and conference tournament) as the top team in the rankings would make it very hard for the committee to slot the Bulldogs anywhere lower than the top line. We won't know the Zags position until tomorrow but CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish, who have typically had the Zags 2-3 spots below where they are eventually ranked by the rest of the voters have chimed in:
Last week's ranking: No. 3
Last week's ranking: No. 4
Last week's ranking: No. 1
Last week's ranking: No. 5
Last week's ranking: No. 6
To offset some of the "You guys are idiots" tweets, the duo published this piece explaining why they ranked the Zags No. 1 and, it was pretty simple and truthful:
I realize the argument against Gonzaga is that it plays in the WCC and thus couldn't have this record if it played in the Big Ten, and I agree that's almost certainly true. But I'm fundamentally against dismissing greatness based on little more than conference affiliation because a school like Gonzaga can't help that it's in the WCC. All Mark Few can do to offset that is schedule as aggressively as possible outside of the league and then do well against that schedule, and he did both this season.
Gonzaga played non-league games with Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Butler, Illinois, Baylor, West Virginia and Davidson, and the Zags finished the non-league portion of their schedule with a 13-2 record. They went 5-0 against the Big 12 -- and not just the bottom of the Big 12. That 5-0 mark came against the schools currently first (Kansas State), third (Oklahoma State), fourth (Oklahoma), sixth (Baylor) and seventh (West Virginia) in the Big 12 standings, and four of the wins were by at least 15 points. Also worth noting: Gonzaga is 3-0 against top-25 RPI schools, 5-2 against top-50 RPI schools and 11-2 against top-100 RPI schools with zero losses outside of the top 50.
While I write with obvious bias being a Gonzaga diehard and faithful alum, the above simply makes sense. This team has lost two games, one to an absurdly hot Brandon Paul and the other on a play that Gonzaga makes 99/100 times against Butler.
No.1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 15...whatever the Zags are ranked, folks will call them overrated but a No. 1 ranking tomorrow would be another cornerstone moment for a remarkable program. Go Zags.