Keith: The women’s team lost their first conference game of the season on Saturday against BYU. Did that kill their chances at an at-large bid for the Tournament or can they still get in without winning the WCC Tournament by nabbing a win in Provo on February 19?
Tuck: I think it’s going to be really tough for them to make it. They’re still looking for a signature win against a tournament caliber team outside of I guess Stephen F Austin? We saw a game against a .500 San Francisco go down to the wire almost on Monday and dropping a game to a team at that level would seemingly shut the door. They would need to steal one back from BYU down the line and remain undefeated against the rest for me to feel confident in their chances.
Peter: The women were appearing on a few bracketologies prior to the loss, but as one of the last teams in, so the loss to BYU pretty much sent them into beyond thin ice territory. Their resume just isn’t that impressive in terms of actual wins—only coming out on top against Utah and SFA for the good ones. After that, it is a lot of close games and a lot of missed opportunities, but such is basketball. If the Zags can go into Provo and nab a win, that might be enough to get them back on the radar. I think ultimately, they are going to need the WCC Tournament Championship anyway, and that would most likely be the third game against BYU. It is unfortunate, because they played Stanford so close, narrowly lost to Washington State, etc., but that is how it goes.
TC: I think the committee—and all of us for that matter—needs to see this team closeout a tough game before they can be tournament bound.
KY: I’m with you in that the auto-bid seems like it is their way in. The resume is very thin, and I haven’t seen enough by way of the proverbial “eye test” to think that the committee might see them differently. Let’s hope they have a strong week in Vegas.
PW: I think the good news is that despite the fact they fell apart against BYU, in general, the Zags have shown they can hang with anybody. The season is hardly over.
KY: Speaking of resumes and tournament bids, it really seemed like the WCC was set up to get four teams into the dance before BYU had this implosion over the last two weeks. They’re done right? The four bid WCC dream is over?
TC: I’ve felt those dreams died a month ago, honestly. The cost of a better overall conference is that pretty good teams like BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco can drop one they shouldn’t against the middle and bottom of the conference. We’ve seen that with BYU and almost saw it with San Francisco barely beating Portland last week. I felt even in December that Santa Clara would play good enough to serve as spoiler for the conference and I think it’s just a matter of time before they sink someone else’s hopes with games against Saint Mary’s and San Francisco this week.
KY: The three bid WCC is officially on notice!
PW: BYU’s resume is being held up almost completely by that win over Oregon earlier in the year when the Ducks looked like they might miss the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State hasn’t done too well in conference play and that win has lost a bit of its luster. The Cougars still have that home win over Saint Mary’s and the road win against San Francisco, but that loss to Pacific is pretty much unforgivable. When you are looking at Bubble Teams, those are the sorts of losses that can make or break a resume. With that said, I think San Francisco has done a good job of making their case again. Going into BYU and picking up a win on the road is good for their overall cause and they can still get a couple of more potential good wins with Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s on the road. Saint Mary’s will be an interesting case, because they close out their conference play with the home games against USF, BYU, and Gonzaga. They’ve looked good (if that is your style of basketball), so I think we might be able to squeak out three teams. That assumes no one pulls a BYU and drops a game to one of the bottom feeders.
It was fun to think about the four-bid WCC but for now we will have to settle for an AP Poll featuring more WCC teams than ACC teams.
TC: I am as staunch of a supporter of the San Francisco Dons as you’ll get. I just worry so much about their offensive dry spells that seem to come regularly in their games. As volatile as their play is with a higher ceiling for a mid-major, they just don’t have the consistent floor that makes me confident they won’t drop one of their remaining games even to the likes of Pacific or Pepperdine let alone San Diego or Santa Clara.
KY: I think you nailed it in that Santa Clara is going to be a dangerous spoiler over the next month. It’s going to be a really fun run down the stretch across the entire WCC, and will make the WCC Tournament that much more interesting to watch outside of the GU games.
Chet Holmgren’s performances over the last few weeks have been completely absurd, and the numbers show he’s producing at levels not seen in years. Is he the best player to ever put on a Gonzaga uniform?
PW: It is a very legitimate argument. I mean, Brandon Clarke would’ve put up one of the best seasons in college hoops in recent memory if not for some guy named Zion Williamson, and Holmgren’s stats are better than Clarke’s. He has a higher Player Efficiency Rating. He has a better defensive rating. Clarke absolutely excelled within the Gonzaga system ( Chet does as well), but I think we can see Holmgren take over a game on his own in a different way than Clarke ever could, given his skill set. I think at the end of the day, it will all depend on how far Holmgren and the Zags can go into the NCAA Tournament. If they flame out early, he will be remembered fondly, but perhaps not as strongly as say, Jalen Suggs. If the Zags win it all, it’s his crown for eternity.
But before we can firmly make this argument, we will need to see about Chet in the NCAA Tournament. I fully expect him to dominate as well, but we can put an asterisk on some performances against teams like BYU, who have absolutely zero players on the roster that could contend with Chet, even if he was just a two-star recruit.
KY: You raise a good point with what the Tournament can bring. Legacies are written in March.
TC: It’s incredible to have a real deal number one prospect for the first time and for him to live up to the billing. The corner he’s turned from being an analytics darling to a truly inarguable juggernaut even with the eye test has been incredible. As his usage rate goes up I don’t know how you argue the idea. He’s going to likely play less games than Clarke did and still have a puncher’s chance of breaking his single-season blocks record. He’s an 88% shooter at the rim. He’s the second best field goal shooter in the country and shooting over 46% from three off of a not-nothing 67 attempts. The fact that we may see him become “the guy” on a team that has two potential All American candidates in Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme only highlights that.