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Gonzaga and Mountain West Conference rumors are picking up steam

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It isn’t a done deal yet, but it looks like it is getting closer.

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

The San Diego Union Tribune just dropped another bombshell (or as big of a bombshell as you can get involving transfer rumors) about Gonzaga possibly transferring to the Mountain West Conference: The Presidents hope to vote on Gonzaga’s inclusion sooner than later.

We’ll let Mark Zeigler take it away:

One source said they are so far along that Mountain West presidents hoped to vote on Gonzaga’s inclusion as early as this week when they meet at the conference basketball tournament in Las Vegas. It has since been pushed back until early April, after the Final Four.

If the source is correct about the timing, this is huge news. It isn’t much of a surprise that Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth has been saying neutral things about the topic—that is his job. But the fact that the presidents of the conference are willing to push this forward quickly means the expansion rumors are as serious as a lot of us speculated.

Now, the issue of course in the immediate future is if the vote is pushed too late, Gonzaga will probably play one more year in the West Coast Conference. Logistically, there is only so much you can ask. Outside of planning the basketball schedule, the fall sports will soon have their schedules figured out. So, even if the MWC says yes, let’s bring in Gonzaga, there is a good chance we will have one more year of WCC play before making the jump.

Mark Few is even getting in on the fun, telling the Las Vegas Review Journal that the Zags are looking out for No. 1 right now, as they should be.

“We’re trying to do what’s best for our program,” Few said. “We’ve been a good soldier that has generated a huge number. What we’ve done with our facilities, with our program, with our travel, every phase. We want everyone (in the WCC) to take that step and move forward. It’s complicated. In the end, we’ll analyze everything and do what we feel is best for the program.”

There was some discussion on this board about whether this is a good move, with some people feeling it is not in the best interests of the Zags. That argument is valid on the level that the WCC best reflects what Gonzaga the university represents—a collection of small, private, mainly Catholic universities.

Outside of that factor, it is hard to make a legitimate argument for why the Zags will be better off in the WCC. The MWC immediately offers an improved conference schedule. Let’s take a look at how the RPIs match up just from this year (WCC teams are bolded).

  • Nevada - No. 14
  • Gonzaga - No. 25
  • Boise St. - No. 41
  • Saint Mary’s - No. 44
  • BYU - No. 67
  • Wyoming - No. 88
  • San Diego State - No. 90
  • Fresno State - No. 102
  • New Mexico - No. 132
  • UNLV - No. 134
  • San Francisco No. 136
  • San Diego - No. 144
  • Utah State - No. 164
  • Pacific - No. 187
  • Colorado State - No. 229
  • Air Force - No. 252
  • Loyola Marymount - No. 257
  • Santa Clara - No. 267
  • Portland - No. 287
  • San Jose State - No. 315
  • Pepperdine - No. 317

That right there, in itself, is your argument for why Gonzaga should make the jump. Even in a down year, like the MWC is having this year, it is still better than a down year in the WCC by quite a number. Also consider that all of those WCC RPIs are inflated because Gonzaga was in the conference.

The Zags are the a top 10 team in all advanced analytics, they are a top 10 team by the AP and coaches polls, but they won’t sniff a high seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, partly because the non-conference slate had some woofs in it, but also because the WCC was utter trash this year.

Add in the fact that the power conferences are expanding to more conference games, which in turn means less non-conference games for Gonzaga to try and schedule against. This further compounds the problem of a craptastic WCC. If Gonzaga struggles to schedule high end teams because the dates just aren’t there, and the WCC is the bottom of the barrel, what in the world can the Zags do?

Five years ago, I still would have been all for a move, but it wouldn’t necessarily have been as pressing. However, the past five years at Gonzaga have evolved at the pace of technology. Much of the rest of the WCC is the grandparents being taught how to use the Internet for the first time by Gonzaga.

It is true, to a certain extent, the WCC is showing promise. Pacific and San Francisco both put together fantastic seasons all considering, but their fantastic seasons of actually benefitting Gonzaga are years away. Who knows what is going to happen at San Diego, and Saint Mary’s is a Randy Bennett taking another coaching job away from disappearing into the abyss.

The Zags don’t have years to wait for the rest of the WCC to improve. They’ve already waited those years. It is a dog eat dog world in the realm of college sports and the Zags have to do what is best for them.