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Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule is the gift that keeps on giving

The Zags are in the running for a No. 1 seed, and some unlikely friends are helping their cause.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Zags, the nation’s lone undefeated team, stand at 20-0 and are constantly in the chatter for a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

Of course, there is a lot that has to go right for that to happen. As UCLA Bruins fans saw, one loss can send you tumbling from the No. 1 seed to the No. 2 seed. There is no room for error this year for teams up on the top—legitimately, there are probably six or seven teams in the nation qualified to be a No. 1 seed, and only four spots to fill.

Gonzaga is one of those teams.

What comes next is a whole lot of presumption, because if Gonzaga slips up just once, the No. 1 seed is gone forever this year. There are too many hungry dogs right below the line to fill the void. So, assuming that the Zags go undefeated, they will have a very good case for a No. 1 seed, and two teams in particular are helping the cause.

On Dec. 3, 2016, Gonzaga defeated Arizona, 69-62. On Dec. 10, 2016, Gonzaga defeated Akron, 61-43. Both of those wins are starting to look nicer with each passing week.

Akron owns three losses on the year: Youngstown State, Creighton and Gonzaga. The Zips have also opened conference play at 6-0 and are currently riding a nine-game winning streak. Coach Keith Dambrot has the offense humming nicely, and Akron has the firepower to win a lot of games in conference.

Right now, Ken Pomeroy predicts two losses for Akron in conference play, but both are pretty thin margins. The Zips are giving Gonzaga an unexpected win over a potential NCAA Tournament team, which only adds to the already strong resume.

The bigger fish, however, is Arizona, and the return of Alonzo Trier is going to be quite nice. Granted, any and all conversations for Gonzaga’s win over the Wildcats will begin and end with, “...but, Gonzaga defeated a Trier-less Zona team.” However, at the end of the day, the Zags will own a win over a potential Pac-12 championship team. Since the loss to Gonzaga, Arizona has rattled off 12-straight wins.

The re-emergence of these two programs is a good thing, because Gonzaga only has three, and most likely four games of actual meaning left: on the road at Saint Mary’s, home and away against BYU, and a probable matchup with one of the two teams in the WCC Tournament.

Teams that are hot rolling into the tournament are often times rewarded, but in a year like this when you have more than enough viable candidates for the top seed, the committee needs to look at the tape. By nature of playing in the WCC, the Zags need all the help they can get, and Arizona and Akron are doing their part.