Still, the Zags sit with the very best record in all of college hoops at 32-1, and yet, because it is Gonzaga, there is a question about whether or not this team is deserving of a No. 1 seed. There is still chatter that the winner of the Pac 12 Tournament might take the crown.
Let’s put it bluntly right here and right now: if Gonzaga isn’t a No. 1 seed on Sunday, March 12, they were snubbed.
Strong declaration right? Except...not really.
For starters, Gonzaga still remains the ONLY team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to have both a top 10 adjusted offense and adjusted defense. There is a reason that the Bulldogs are No. 1 overall in his rankings.
Bad losses? The Zags don’t own a single one. Sure, losing to BYU at home is a real bummer, but it isn’t a bad loss, per se. BYU is ranked No. 76 by KenPom, and sure, the loss does sting. But it stings more for fans because of its symbolic value. For the purposes of seeding, it isn’t a huge blemish on the record.
Let’s break down the RPI, because the selection committee still uses that as a measuring stick for some unknown reason. Yes, the Zags are below other popular potential No. 1 teams out west named Arizona and Oregon—only ever so slightly. However, if you break down the RPI numbers, the Zags come out impressively on top.
Gonzaga is 5-0 against RPI top 25 teams this season. Arizona is 1-4, Oregon is 2-2, UCLA is 3-2. You expand that to RPI top 50 teams, and the Zags are 6-0. Arizona is 4-4, Oregon is 4-2, and UCLA is 5-3. In other words, even based off this metric for dummies, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are still better than the competition (aka the team that wins the Pac 12 Championship).
Oregon, the top challenger to the Zags No. 1 throne, has a BYU-esque loss (at Colorado), as well as a thorough drubbing by Baylor, a close loss against UCLA, and a loss against Georgetown. That latter loss is important. This isn’t the Georgetown of yesteryear. This is the Georgetown that very well may not make the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA’s resume sits a bit better. They own losses to Oregon and USC on the road, and an unfortunate home loss to Arizona. The big problem for the Bruins however, is yeah, that win over Kentucky looks great, but the rest of that non-conference schedule is rather frightening. Take out games against Texas A&M, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio State, UCLA’s average KenPom ranking for the rest of the non-conference slate is 245.
And that brings us to Arizona, and the biggest problem there lies in a game on Dec. 3, where Gonzaga took down the Wildcats, 69-62. Arizona has had a great season and doesn’t own a single bad loss. They do, however, also own four losses, and one of those would be to the team they are theoretically seeded higher than.
But none of this should matter at all. If you look at the advanced stats, Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 by KenPom. UCLA is next at No. 16, then Oregon at No. 17 and finally Arizona at No. 21. I get it, I get it—the Zags would be last if they played in the Pac 12. But the fact of the matter is that Gonzaga has won against top tier competition this season, just as much, if not more, than their direct competition to the No. 1 seed.
The selection committee is full of smart people (I think), so the decision should be easy, regardless of who wins the Pac 12 tournament. The Zags have made the case all season they are the top team out west, and anything less than a No. 1 seed will be a full blown snub.