February 21, 2014 in Sports

NCAA berth likely, but not a lock for Zags

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Brigham Young’s Anson Winder (20) goes to the basket as Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski (24) defends in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday in Provo, Utah. BYU won 73-65.
(Full-size photo)

COMING UP
Saturday:
Gonzaga Bulldogs at San Diego Toreros, 9 p.m.
TV: ESPN2

SAN DIEGO – Junior guard Kevin Pangos was asked earlier this week if Gonzaga has started thinking about seeding.

He replied with a question: “Seeding for the big tournament?”

“I don’t think we’ve really thought about that yet,” said Pangos, when told the question referred to the NCAA tournament. “We just want to get in there first of all. Taking it game by game is going to help us get that right seeding.”

Sound advice, because playing the projection game might be enough to scramble some brain cells of Gonzaga followers. On one hand, the Zags have strong numbers with a 23-5 record, a piece of their 13th WCC championship in the last 14 years, a No. 25 ranking prior to falling at BYU on Thursday and an NCAA RPI of 28. Their loss to Portland is probably the only one that would raise eyebrows in the selection committee meeting room.

On the other hand, Gonzaga faces three road games to close the regular season. The Zags lack a signature win. Defeating BYU, which has a current RPI of 36, last month is perhaps their best victory. They opened the week projected as a seven seed by Foxsports.com, an eight by ESPN.com, a nine in a mock bracket of journalists invited to Indianapolis last weekend and a 10 by cbssports.com.

A worst-case scenario of a couple of more losses and an early stumble in the WCC tournament and the road from a solid at-large resume to the bubble certainly becomes shorter. That underscores the importance of Gonzaga taking care of what it can control to close the regular season, beginning with tonight’s matchup versus San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Seventh-place San Diego (15-14, 6-10) defeated Portland on Thursday and gave Gonzaga everything it could handle in a 59-56 loss in Spokane.

WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who is in his third year on the selection committee, can’t discuss specific teams for obvious reasons. When the topic of WCC teams comes up, he steps out of the meeting room.

“The reality is which way it goes will not only be determined by how any one team plays but 40 to 60 other schools and how they play,” said Zaninovich, speaking in general terms. “People want to make it simple that way and it’s not. There are so many other variables. All you can do is play your games and win.”

Donning his commissioner’s hat, Zaninovich said the fact that the WCC is No. 9 in conference RPI and ahead of others such as the Mountain West “is a great thing for us and it really matters. Now, putting myself in committee member (mode) I’ve never heard conference RPI mentioned ever. It’s all about the specific team evaluated by relative strength.”

The selection committee recently assembled a mock bracket.

“At the end of the day, we probably spend 30 percent on the first 28-30 (at-large berths) and 70 percent on the last 7-9,” he said. “Most everybody right now could select 30 of the 37. The really tough decisions come down to that last group of teams.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email