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A premature look at Gonzaga’s decision to spurn the MWC

Sometimes the known quantity is the best quantity.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga had a very public flirtation with the Mountain West Conference last season, before ultimately deciding to make its current marriage with the West Coast Conference work after receiving key concessions in the form of NCAA Tournament revenue distributions and scheduling changes. Those moves were important (as was Gonzaga’s likely desire to continue its relationship with ESPN and avoid playing on CBS Sports Network for branding purposes), and certainly played a large role in appeasing Gonzaga. But from just a basketball standpoint, was staying in the WCC the best decision too?

With the caveat that it is *very* early in the season, the MWC has looked decidedly “meh” through the season’s first seven days. On Saturday night the WCC’s Loyola Marymount went on the road and took a 61-50 win at UNLV; Boise State lost at home to Idaho State (the same team that Gonzaga hung 120 points on a few days prior); and Brandon Clarke’s former team, San Jose State, lost at home to Southern Utah. Yes, Nevada did beat BYU in its opener, but that game was much closer than the 86-70 final indicates as the Cougars kept it tight most of the night and were within 4 points in the game’s closing minutes.

Currently, KenPom rates the WCC as the 8th best conference in the nation, and features 4 teams in the Top 100 (Gonzaga, BYU, SMC, and USF). The MWC is three spots behind at 11 and only has two teams in KenPom’s Top 100 (Nevada and San Diego State). Comparing the bottom of the two conferences also favors the WCC, as the MWC’s worst team in San Jose St. is ranked 328th, while the WCC’s worst team (Portland) comes in at 236.

I don’t mean to needlessly (and endlessly) rehash this debate, but at the moment, it looks as if Gonzaga made the right decision (if not necessarily the popular one) to stay in the WCC from both a financial and competitive standpoint. Of course, it wasn’t a decision made for the immediate short term. It will be years before we can adequately evaluate the non-move, but as we sit here today, the old adage that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side may ring true once again.