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Memphis Loss Leaves Gonzaga With Little Margin For Error

Gonzaga was heading to their first true quality win of the season on Saturday night before Memphis stormed back. Now, the Zags are a legitimate at-large bubble team.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

We outlined the stakes of Saturday night's game at Memphis in great detail. Win, and the Bulldogs would have some breathing room heading into the finish line of the West Coast Conference season. Lose, and this is a team that has to be darn near perfect down the stretch. That stretch includes six more conference games, the last four being all on the road. Two of those four road games are at BYU and at Saint Mary's which will both be chomping at the bit to knock the Zags off.

BYU, in particular, poses the biggest threat to the Zags as they have really settled in and played some solid basketball since losing to Gonzaga in the end of January. They've gone 4-0 since then and have crawled back into at-large discussion. In fact, they are currently Gonzaga's only top-50 RPI win of the season. Speaking of the RPI, let's take a look at some of the metrics that the selection committee will be reviewing regarding our beloved Bulldogs...

KenPom 28
RPI* 22
BPI* 28
Sagarin 22
Top-50 RPI Record* 1-2
Top-100 RPI Record* 8-3

* Per ESPN

The rankings still like the Zags quite a bit. Their 21-4 record is obviously very solid on the surface but the largest ding on the resume is the lack of quality wins. In actuality, these numbers are likely inflated a bit when you consider the fact that these teams are currently in the RPI Top-100: Pacific (Ranked 100th), San Francisco (93rd), and NMSU (81st). New Mexico State will likely remain in the Top-100 barring a major collapse but USF and Pacific are likely to drop out meaning that the true current Top-100 record is closer to 5-3 which is very suspect. Remaining games against St. Mary's and BYU are opportunities to recoup some of those as is the WCC Tournament but, as we have said, the margin is very slim.

The obvious best case scenario for the Zags is to cruise through the rest of the regular season and win the conference tournament. That takes away all bubble discussion and provides the Zags with three Top-50 wins (all coming against BYU assuming they stay in) which should help with seeding. Not to mention the fact that only having four losses all season would be an impressive feat. If Gonzaga wins out in the regular season but falters in the WCC Championship game, they will likely not be sweating. However, a loss in the regular season combined with a loss in the conference tournament will make for some sleepless nights heading into Selection Sunday.