On Monday, the Zags were one win away from earning the auto-bid to the 21st-consecutive NCAA Tournament. The plan was to do it in style, to even make a push for that No. 1 overall seed.
Instead, as we know, Gonzaga fell apart at the seams. This post isn’t to detail that process. This post is looking ahead to Sunday, and to Gonzaga’s shot at a No. 1 seed.
Right off the bat, I’d wouldn’t wager any money on it. For as many arguments as you can say about Gonzaga not being a No. 1 seed, you can line up a barrage of statistics that say they should. In a year where the No. 1 team in the nation has cycled quite consistently, across the board, you can make the same argument for probably five or six teams. Of course, there are only four No. 1 seeds.
Let’s just detail the case for Gonzaga as a No. 1 see real quick:
- currently ranked No. 2 in the NCAA’s very own NET Rankings
- currently ranked No. 2 in KenPom’s rankings
- currently ranked No. 2 in ESPN’s BPI rankings
- currently ranked No. 4 in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings
And now let’s detail the case against Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed.
- Only 4-3 in Quadrant I victories
That bullet there is it, and it is the most common complaint against Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed from the big dog schools who feel threatened by the notion that the Zags deserves a seat at the head of the table.
That is fair when compared to the other teams angling for a No. 1 seed. Kentucky is 10-3 in Quadrant I wins, Virginia is 11-2, Duke is 8-4, North Carolina is 9-5, and Michigan State is 11-4. This is the reality of the situation and Gonzaga’s membership in the WCC. For the rest of our time on the planet, Gonzaga’s conference will never mirror the ACC, the Big Ten, or the SEC.
With that said, the important thing to remember here, that a lot of people don’t like to point out: The Selection Committee pays attention to how you schedule out of conference. So let’s take a quick look at those non-conference Quadrant I wins.
- Gonzaga: 2-2
- Michigan State: 2-2
- North Carolina: 2-3
- Kentucky: 3-1
- Virginia: 2-0
- Duke: 3-1
Suddenly, the playing field looks a bit more even, and that isn’t even including the rest of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule, which to a certain extent fell apart at the seams. Arizona has been to six-straight NCAA Tournaments. Texas A&M was in the Sweet 16 last year. Creighton was in the last two NCAA Tournaments. Those three power conference teams are all in a bit of a rut this year. Hell, if not for a fantastic turn around job by Mike Hopkins at Washington, you could almost make the case for four squads.
On paper, there are teams that probably should be slotted in first ahead of the Zags. But emotionally, casting the straight up stats aside and looking at who played who and where, in a non-conference situation, in which the team schedules the opponent, Gonzaga did its business.
All of this matters because the Zags laid an ostrich egg on the court of the Orleans Arena, cracked it, left in the egg shells, served it sunny side up, and tried to pass it off as an omelette. One absolutely wretched game, against a team that by all the rankings is a decent team, shouldn’t wipe away a season’s worth of achievements.
But it might, because that is March, and March tends not to care. If that is the case, so be it. The Zags, who have hit No. 1 in the rankings twice this season and spent a good majority of the season as the No. 1 team in virtually every ranking system out there, will enter the NCAA Tournament with one of the biggest chips on the shoulder this squad has carried. That motivation alone is the stuff to make movies about.