After just a couple of weeks, the WCC was looking as strong as ever and a possible three-bid conference into the NCAA Tournament.
Two weeks is a very small sample size over the course of the whole season, and now that we are halfway through, it is quite apparent that the WCC could very possibly be a one-bid league. Whether or not this is true, I'm still not so sure, however.
Let's start out with a look at SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean's latest bracketology. Gonzaga is the sole member of the WCC listed, hanging out in as the No. 10 seed in the West bracket with a looming third-round matchup against Wichita State (blargh).
Of course, the easiest way to keep the tournament streak alive is to win the WCC Conference tournament. There are a lot of constants involved and a lot of moving parts, but depending on how the season progresses, I wouldn't necessarily say that the Bulldogs will be left on the outside looking in. Let's say, hypothetically, that the Bulldogs go on the road to beat Memphis and then run the WCC table before falling in the championship game. I think that is more than enough to get them in. The main reason why is an undying ignorance to reality, but also that the WCC isn't as bad top-to-bottom as it usually is.
Let's take a look at RPI numbers (as of Jan. 14 courtesy of espn.com)
The lack of sub 250 RPI teams is what jumps out immediately. There are five top-100 teams in the conference, and although I don't expect it to necessarily stay that way as conference play progresses, the key takeaway here is that parity has done wonders for this league. In previous years, the top was great and the bottom was absolutely lousy. Let's take a look at the 2011-12 season.
The 2011-12 season is the perfect season to look at because of BYU's position. This was the year that Saint Mary's ended our regular season streak and cemented themselves in the Spokane annals of hate. It is also a year that the WCC sent three teams into the NCAA Tournament. Looking at BYU's number, and granted, they were as firmly placed on the bubble as possible as one of the play-in teams, they didn't have a huge case to make it into the tournament.
If you look at BYU's schedule that year, like Gonzaga's this year, it wasn't one that inspired a lot of confidence. They had solid non-conference wins over Nevada and Oregon but that was it for statement games. Every single other opportunity they had, they dropped. For the slight conference egg on their face, they lost to LMU at home. By the numbers, not as bad of a loss as Gonzaga's to Portland, but still not a good loss.
Looking at the conference numbers as a whole between the two years, the obvious benefit for Gonzaga this season is in the RPI numbers. RPI is hardly the sole factor that weights into the committee's decision, but it is a guiding force. The WCC in 2011-12 wasn't balanced. The top was good, the middle was meh and the bottom was awful. That isn't the case this year.
So that is that. It isn't a whole lot of concrete numbers, because there also isn't too much transparency in how the committee makes its decisions and why -- just a lot of backlash and anger. Gonzaga didn't do itself any favors by losing to Portland. The obvious response following a loss like that is a bit of a knee jerk reaction with a solid dose of overreaction thrown in there. I did the same thing. Now, a few days later, with a calm head and a full glass of coffee in front of me, I've reminded myself there are still 14 games left in conference play and then the tournament before Selection Sunday rolls around. There is still plenty of time for Gonzaga to mess up more and there is still plenty of time for Gonzaga to prove they belong in the national spotlight in March. I'm focusing on the latter attitude.
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