If recent history is any indication, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, who close the regular season tonight in Moraga, will see each other again fairly soon.
The Zags and Gaels have played for the last five WCC Tournament titles, with GU winning three. Tonight, Gonzaga tries to enhance its NCAA credentials against the Gaels, who probably need to win the WCC Tournament to reach the NCAAs. GU has won four of the last five at McKeon Pavilion.
By Jim Meehan
MORAGA, Calif. – With the WCC regular-season title safely in their back pocket, the Gonzaga Bulldogs move on to the next item: Trying to keep a safe distance from the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Gonzaga (24-6, 14-3) calls on rival Saint Mary’s (21-9, 11-6) at McKeon Pavilion to close the regular season. The Bulldogs will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, but that’s not the seeding they’re worried about tonight.
“It’s a rival game, it’s the last one in league, it’s going to be a great environment,” said coach Mark Few, shortly after the Zags’ 70-53 victory over Pacific on Thursday. “And it has NCAA ramifications of some kind. I don’t know what but it does.”
Certainly does. Gonzaga is currently projected as 9 or 10 seed, which doesn’t leave much of a safety net if it fails to win the WCC Tournament. The Zags can boost their resume with a victory over Saint Mary’s, 57th in the latest NCAA RPI, or creep closer to the bubble with a loss.
The Gaels enter on a two-game winning streak, including a 70-61 decision over Portland on Thursday. Saint Mary’s is 45-7 in home conference games since 2008, with four of those losses to Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s is in fourth place, one game behind San Francisco and BYU.
“We have to come in with the same attitude and same focus (as Thursday),” GU senior guard David Stockton said. “I think Saturday is every bit as important to us as winning this one was (Thursday).”
For down the road?
“Oh yeah,” Stockton said.
Senior guard Stephen Holt and junior center Brad Waldow struggled in a 73-51 loss to Gonzaga in early January. Holt finished with nine points and zero assists – his only game this season without at least one assist. Waldow made just 1 of 8 shots and scored a season-low five points.
Those two, particularly Holt, come into the rematch on a roll. Holt has scored 61 points in SMC’s last two games on 21-of-30 shooting, including 8 of 14 on 3-pointers. Waldow is averaging 14.5 points, shooting 62.5 percent and grabbing 11 rebounds in his last four games.