The Gonzaga Bulldogs gave the West Coast Conference a resounding vote of confidence on Monday, spurning the theoretically greener pastures of the Mountain West Conference for some more west coast slaughters.
In recent years, it almost seemed a non-starter question that Gonzaga was on its way out of the conference, especially after the normally controversy adverse Mark Few even chimed in on the frustrations.
The MWC was never a perfect fit by any means. The TV contract wasn’t nearly as good right off the bat. There would have been an unknown in trying to renegotiate that onto ESPN for the national profile, rather than CBS Sports like many MWC games are shown now.
The Zags were poised to lose a substantial amount of money, nearly $7 million by Jim Meehan’s count. The WCC, a league of small, private, mostly religious schools, holds an identity similar to Gonzaga’s makeup over the large, state schools in the MWC.
Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth said the league made positive changes that will benefit everyone, and those less conference games are definitely answering at least a portion of the criticism from Gonzaga. Now, instead of having to play all of the dredges of the WCC, teams will play only 16 conference games. Presumably, the Zags will have a lot of weight in making sure that benefits their RPI.
One of the things Roth noted was the immediate success the Zags have enjoyed in the WCC as of late. Roth has refused to commit to anything for the most part, once again saying he is keeping his ears to the ground on the national conference expansion front.
So for now, the loose coalition between Gonzaga and the WCC will remain. If the conference is intent on improving as a whole, the topic of changing conferences is a rather moot point. Whether or not that is the case will be the question of the day. Every time a team seems to be on an improving path in the WCC (Pacific, Portland), other teams appear to be dropping off a cliff at an inverse rate to negate any benefit (San Diego, Pepperdine).
All of this means it is business as usual for Gonzaga next season There are still things the Zags can do to improve from their end of the coin. The Zags can ditch playing teams as bad as Howard, IUPUI, and Incarnate Word. One of these teams is enough—three is too much.
The Selection Committee has stressed that they are incorporating advanced analytics more, which benefits Gonzaga. Unless the quadrants are the definition of “advanced” by the NCAA, it is hard to gauge how true this is. Just last year, the Zags somehow had to make a case for being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, despite a one loss season.
The way of the Gonzaga fan is to have trust in everything the administration does (this excludes the success of plays called off time outs). Roth and Mark Few aren’t idiots, and they must see enough potential in the future of the WCC, alongside that precious money, to stay in the WCC.
It will be interesting to see how long this fragile partnership lasts. The Gonzaga fanbase rattles and clamors for a conference change once every offseason begins. The Big East through some Gonzaga rumors out there years ago, and the MWC repeated the affair these past few weeks.
No matter how pro you were for a change of pace (me), you cannot argue with the success of the current setup. Just a little over a year ago, the Zags were sitting in their first NCAA Tournament championship game. That climb was not an accidental flash in the pan. The WCC has worked for now, and hopefully it will continue to work in the future.