Gonzaga, at 33-1, would absolutely deserve a No. 1 seed come March
The Zags are one of just two teams in the country that's won at least 80 percent of their games against top-50 opponents, suffered no losses outside of the top 10 and endured zero home losses. The other one is Kentucky.
Gonzaga beat Pacific late Thursday to clinch at least a share of the West Coast Conference's regular-season title for the 14th time in 15 years, meaning Mark Few's team is now one step closer to entering Selection Sunday with a possible record of 33-1. If that happens, a debate centered around whether the Zags would deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is guaranteed to ensue.
And it'll be a dumb debate.
Let's go ahead and make that clear now.
While recognizing everything is fluid, and blah, blah, blah, there's just no way anybody will convince me a Gonzaga team with a 33-1 record -- and on what would be 26-game winning streak -- wouldn't be deserving of one of the four top seeds in the Field of 68. Anyone suggesting otherwise would be doing little more than penalizing the Zags for something they cannot control, i.e., their league affiliation and, specifically, the rest of the WCC.
That said, the WCC is probably better than most realize.
That's something that should be noted for Gonzaga's resume.
The WCC is currently ranked seventh among leagues at KenPom, a website offering an unbiased statistical analysis of college basketball players, teams and conferences. That places the WCC ahead of the Atlantic 10, the American Athletic Conference and the MVC, and it's the highest WCC rating since KenPom started tracking such things 13 years ago.
In other words, the WCC is OK.
And Gonzaga is tearing through it.
The Zags are 15-0 in the WCC with 12 double-digit wins.
Combine that with the fact that Gonzaga, as usual, scheduled as aggressively as possible outside of the conference, then did everything any reasonable observer could ask of it in the non-league portion of its schedule, and what are we even debating here? Is it Gonzaga's lack of top-50 RPI wins that bothers you? Because the most the Zags could possibly have right now is six, and they actually do have five -- just one fewer than Wisconsin, case you didn't know. The only opportunity they missed was when they lost at Arizona in overtime, and, I believe, every college team in the country -- outside of maybe Kentucky -- would be projected to take a loss in a game played at Arizona.
Either way, like I wrote, they still have five top-50 wins.
Among the highlights: The Zags own a win over the SMU team that owns a win over the Temple team that beat Kansas. And the Zags own a win over the St. John's team that owns a win over the Providence team that beat Notre Dame. And the Zags own a win over the Georgia team that owns a win over the Ole Miss team that beat Arkansas. And the Zags own a win over the UCLA team that owns a win over the Utah team that beat Wichita State.
Gonzaga, by the way, is the only team to beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
And the Zags won that game easily.
The final score was 87-74.
In fairness, Gonzaga's five top-50 wins don't compare to Duke's 10 top-50 wins, Kentucky's nine top-50 wins, Kansas' nine top-50 wins, Villanova's nine top-50 wins, so on and so forth. But, again, that's strictly the result of the Zags' limited opportunities because of their league affiliation. So to focus on that is silly when a more reasonable thing to consider is how Gonzaga has won 83.3 percent of its games against top-50 opponents with no losses to schools ranked outside of the top 10, and zero losses at home.
You know how many other schools have A) won at least 80 percent of its games against top-50 RPI opponents, B) suffered zero losses to teams ranked outside of the top 10 of the RPI, and C) endured zero losses at home?
The Kentucky Wildcats.
So what are we even debating here?
To be clear, if Gonzaga loses at St. Mary's on Saturday -- or if Gonzaga loses any other game it plays before the bracket is finalized and announced -- then we'll revisit all of this and take a fresh look. Don't get it twisted. But if the Zags close with six more victories, finish 33-1 and take a 26-game winning streak into Selection Sunday, absolutely, they'll get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And they'll be a deserving recipient, undeniably.
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