In what has arguably been one of the wackier years in college basketball, the one thing that has remained pretty consistent was the Gonzaga Bulldog’s chances of earning the No. 1 seed.
Even with the San Diego State Aztecs rolling through much of the season undefeated, the Zags still placed as the higher seed in the NCAA’s mid-season reveal, cementing the case for the Zags to be the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
Until Saturday, that is. Gonzaga went on the road to BYU and finally lost. The Aztecs, not to be outdone, had lost earlier in the day, to a not-as-good-as-BYU UNLV squad. SDSU’s lone blemish on the season couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Zags’ and Aztec’s losses basically canceled each other out. Back at square one.
Thanks to the fine people at bracketmatrix.com, we can see the Zags are firmly planted in the No. 1 seed line, with the Aztec’s as the first one to slip to the second seed. Across all of the brackets the website scans, the Zags are a No. 1 seed in all but four of them.
Assuming the Zags win out, their resume, despite the falters of the Washington Huskies and North Carolina Tar Heels, will have more than enough to justify its lofty seeding. The Zags are currently 5-2 in Quadrant I wins and can add one to two more wins to that total (depending on how Saint Mary’s shakes out and the WCC Championship game).
San Diego State currently stands at 4-0 in Quadrant I wins. Nevada could creep high enough that a regular season win over the Wolf Pack would boost SDSU to 5-0, but the only team in the Mountain West capable of delivering another Quadrant I win in the MWC Tournament is Utah State. At best, SDSU can finish 6-0 in Quadrant I wins.
Although the 2017 Gonzaga team was definitively a better squad, in some ways, this team has as good of a chance to win it all. There is no dominant squad in the country. Everyone has looked more than vulnerable at some point throughout the season. Gonzaga doesn’t have a large room for error, but the teams that win it all rarely do.
That is why securing the No. 1 seed is so important this year. There are a lot of factors that go into marching through six-straight wins. Matchups matter, locations matter, travel distances matter, but, historically, seeding has shown it matters as well.
Since the NCAA started seeding in 1979, 40.24 percent of the teams in the Final Four have been No. 1 seeds. No. 2 seeds only constitute 20.73 percent of all Final Four Teams. No. 3’s are only 11.59 percent. That makes sense, if anything, based on the quality of potential opponents.
For a No. 1 seed to make its way to the Final Four, at best it can play the No. 16, then the No. 8, followed by the No. 4, before meeting the No. 2 seed. The No. 2 seed has to play the No. 15, the No. 7, and the No. 3, before hitting that big game in the Elite Eight. That small has historically mattered.
As said before, none of this matters if the Zags don’t win out. So, for now, Gonzaga is in the driving seat when it comes to March Madness this year, which, if the regular season is any indicator, should be wildly fun time.