On Saturday, Gonzaga opens WCC play against the BYU Cougars. There is a popular sentiment going around that Gonzaga is so good that we will run the table through the conference and enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss. If that happens, Gonzaga is most likely snaring a No. 2 seed, possibly even another No. 1 seed.
For my money, I'm not going to bet on that happening. I'm also not going to bet against the Zags running the table. I can personally see conference play unfolding either way quite easily. Gonzaga has ran the table three times in the past decade, most recently in 2013. They also have a record of 121-17 over the past decade against WCC opponents (excluding the conference tournament). For what it is worth, Ken Pomeroy projects Gonzaga to win every game remaining in the season, with many of the projections up in the 90-percent chance of happening.
That said, things don't always go according to how they should on paper. CBS Sports currently ranks the West Coast Conference as No. 9 in RPI, with three bids for the conference -- presumably to BYU, Saint Mary's and Gonzaga. The WCC is as strong as it has been in recent years, and although Gonzaga is also much stronger, you never know what is going to happen in those matchbox gyms scattered along the west coast.
If Gonzaga is going to run the table, there are a few potential bumps along the way. Let's take a look at the potential potholes.
Dec. 27 @ BYU
Gonzaga opens conference play in perhaps the most difficult way possible. Tyler Haws should have a healthy ankle by then and it isn't like people just stroll into the Marriott Center and win like it is no big deal. The BYU fanatics are vicious, loud and boo every single call that doesn't go the slightest bit in their favor. Gonzaga got that kind of fury in Arizona and responded well, but the Wildcat fans are classier than the Cougars. Haws is one of the best scorers int he country. He's got options in Chase Fischer, Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth to back him up. BYU's defense is flimsy at best, but the Cougars push a hard pace and will force Gonzaga to run. First game on the road, it isn't that far-fetched to see a slip up from the Bulldogs here.
Dec. 29 @ San Diego
Remember, we are looking at potential potholes, not games that are guaranteed to be afraid of. But according to Ken Pomeroy's metrics, Gonzaga is less likely to win this game than it is the game at Saint Mary's. San Diego's record is a bit deceiving. They've hung with UCLA, San Diego State and Xavier longer than anyone gave them any credit for. They've also got one of the better backcourts in the WCC other than Gonzaga's. Senior point guard Christopher Anderson is one of the best distributors in college basketball and leads the entire nation with 7.6 assists per game. Then there is Johnny Dee, who is probably the best scorer in he WCC after Haws. Dee has increased all his shooting percentages from last season and can torch a team from the outside. He is currently fifth in the nation in number of threes made. Most importantly, Gonzaga has struggled at the Jenny Craig Pavilion as of late. In 2013, the Bulldogs escaped with a two-point victory. Last season, they were dinged with a three-point loss.
Feb. 21 @ Saint Mary's
Realistically, even though I don't think Gonzaga will lose this game, let's put it on here because it is Saint Mary's and there is always that possibility. Saint Mary's did hang with St. John's on the road and also notched a lovely looking win over Creighton in overtime. Then there is that one guy Brad Waldow aka public enemy number one.
Yeah -- that oaf. I can only try and slander his name so much, however, because the credit is due on Waldow's senior campaign. He is averaging 22.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while looking like one of the best overall players in the conference. You have a legitimate three-point shooter in Kerry Carter and another Australian point guard named Emmett Naar we will all learn to hate. Saint Mary's turns the ball over too much, but they still shoot the ball well. Combine that with the fanbase that literally drools at the thought of beating Gonzaga and you have to take notice of the game.