Along side the polls every week, we are now in bracketology season, where a horde of people place 68 teams willy nilly all over a little Excel spreadsheet looking page and then explain their line of thinking into a process that few people truly understand.
This my friends, is March Madness at its finest.
But, just like the polls that we look at every week and tell ourselves we care nothing about but secretly care more than we wish we did, bracketology time is a great indicator for where Gonzaga sits for the big dance. And right now? We happen to be sitting in the dance, albeit, just barely.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN has us as a No. 10 seed. CBS Sports has us as the No. 11 seed and part of the last four in. The mothership SB Nation has us as a No. 12 seed and also part of the last four in. NBC Sports has us as a No. 11 seed. The Slipper Still Fits yet to be published bracketology has us as a No. 1 seed.
The moral of all these stories is exactly what we knew; Gonzaga's quest to continue its streak of NCAA Tournament appearances is in serious jeopardy, at this point, this season.
All of that makes sense. Despite the fact we have only lost our five games by a combined 15 points, all to good teams essentially, also means that we haven't won a single marquee game. Right now, the Zags best wins are over Connecticut and a thankfully surprising Washington Huskies squad.
As it stands right now, Gonzaga has a RPI rating of 72. You can make a solid and convincing argument quite easily that the RPI rating is one of the dumbest possible ratings in college basketball and needs to be banished to the furthest outreaches of the galaxy. But the fact of the matter is that the RPI is one of the main tools used by the selection committee in their selection process, and therefore, it is stupidly important. For Gonzaga, its RPI rating isn't helping its cause whatsoever.
That isn't to say that all hope is lost. The Zags have two opportunities to make a statement game, and a third game that would also help bolster the resume a bit. That isn't to say that if the season ended right now the Zags would be a surefire lock--they are on the bubble as firmly as a team can get on the bubble.
But this is also a funky year for college basketball. There hasn't been a clear-cut top team in the nation for pretty much the entire season. Sportswriters are using terms like "Duke might miss the tournament" and "what is happening to Wisconsin." This twilight zone story arc has taken place all season and is going to make the bubble watch one of the crazier and more interesting bubble watches to take place.
Which brings us to right now. Yes, the Zags appear to be a team that will get their name called on Selection Sunday, and a part of me really thinks a lot of that is due to legacy more than anything else. There are two different paths the Zags can take to make the NCAA Tournament, and the beauty (or horror depending on which way you look at it), is that it is all in the hands of the Bulldogs.
A win over SMU on the road would give the Zags that resume-boosting win that they need to move from firmly on the bubble to hanging out on the right side of the bubble. SMU just dropped its second loss on the season to Houston, and that doesn't look too good. However, barring a total collapse, SMU will be a top 25 team when they face the Zags, and a road win there would be the golden ticket.
The other must win (outside of every remaining game on the schedule) is a win over Saint Mary's at home. Right now, Saint Mary's is a top-50 RPI team, and although it would hardly be a signature win in terms of name value, it would be a great resume booster as well.
Again, every game is a must win game for the Zags if they want to make their March 13 a bit easier to swallow. If Gonzaga wins both of those games, a loss on the road to BYU to close out the season won't be any sort of nail in the coffin. And then there is always the possibility that the Zags pull out all the stops in Las Vegas and win the WCC crown, at which point all of this talk becomes moot.
Either way, as frustrating as this season has been to unfold, this is also sort of the beauty of college basketball. Each and every game for the Zags is as important as the last one, and just as important as the next one. If this team wants to make it into the tournament, they are going to have to show the selection committee why they belong there with their play the rest of the season.