The biggest news out of the West Coast Conference on Sunday was not that Gonzaga is now participating in its 18th straight NCAA Tournament.
Rather, it was that Saint Mary's was left out of the Field of 68 by the committee.
I've already written at length why Saint Mary's was snubbed. Apparently Gonzaga coach Mark Few agrees and believes part of the problem is the conference that the two teams currently play in.
In an interview with the Spokesman-Review in Washington, Few issued a challenge to the rest of the league beyond Saint Mary's, BYU, and Gonzaga.
“Our league needs to really step back and take notice,” Few said. “It’s time for some of these other institutions to start picking it up. They’re really dragging the top three down.”
Few went as far as to wonder whether or not the league should look at how it distributes money made from NCAA Tournament appearances.
“We need to talk long and hard about (NCAA Tournament) money distribution that we’re making for the league,” Few said. “And if they’re not spending it on basketball, we don’t need to be sponsoring swimming at those schools or whatever they’ve got going. They’re not all in.”
To be perfectly honest, Few is on the money here. Six of the 10 teams in the league this year finished with a KenPom rating of 196 or lower and an RPI of 223 or lower. For first time since 2012, the league finished 11th in the conference ranking or lower in KenPom. After three straight years of growth, the league has stagnated and it's leading to problems for the top end of the league. This year, simply put, the league was a mid-major with three terrific teams at the top. If it wants to consistently get multiple bids into the NCAA Tournament going forward, it must improve the middle portion of its league.
Having said that though, there are some signs the league is making an active attempt at improvement. Last year, San Diego moved on from Bill Grier to hire graduate Lamont Smith. Three schools this season -- Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Pacific -- have already decided to fire their coaches. Basically, schools have decided that mediocrity was not good enough over the past few seasons and have decided to take a swing at something better.
Until the hires actually take place, it's impossible to say whether or not the league is trending back toward the level it was prior to this season. But Few is right: for the league to contend for at-large bids consistently in the future, it's time for the middle and bottom tiers of the league to start rising to the occasion.