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Bulldogs’ win over USF ensures top seed in WCC

Not that it matters all that much to Gonzaga coach Mark Few, but after West Coast Conference officials did the math following Saturday’s games, it was determined that GU’s 75-73 win over San Francisco meant more than previously thought.

The victory, the Bulldogs’ eighth straight, not only assured them of at least a share of their fifth consecutive regular-season league championship, but locked up the No. 1 seed in next month’s WCC Tournament, as well.

The Zags (21-4 overall, 11-2 in the WCC) head to Portland on Wednesday for a Thursday night matchup against the Pilots (15-13, 4-9) in the league finale for both schools. A win would give GU the conference title outright. But even if the Bulldogs lose, and second-place Saint Mary’s (22-7, 9-3) wins its remaining two games to capture a share of the regular-season crown, the Zags get the No. 1 tournament seed by virtue of the league’s tie-breaker system.

Under that system, with GU and Saint Mary’s having split their two meetings, the next seedings criteria to consider is head-to-head competition against the next highest finisher in the league standings.

In order to win it’s last two games, Saint Mary’s would have to beat San Francisco (14-11, 5-7) and San Diego (14-11, 6-6), thus assuring that Santa Clara (14-13, 7-5), a team that lost twice to Gonzaga but won both games against Saint Mary’s, would finish third.

Few said earlier that seedings in the league tournament meant far less than winning the league championship. And he added, following Saturday night’s win over USF, that this year’s title – whether it is won outright or shared – means something special.

“This has been an amazing group,” Few said. “You’ve got to step back and remember that we started the season with three sophomores and two freshman (playing key roles). There were a lot of questions, with us losing all those seniors from last year. And not only did these guys win the league, but they won it with the league being as tough as it has been.”

As the No. 1 seed in the WCC Tournament, which starts Friday, March 4, at Santa Clara, the Bulldogs have earned a bye into the semifinals. They will play their first tournament game at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 6 against either the fourth-, fifth- or eighth-place team.

The WCC finals will be played Monday, March 7, at 9 p.m. and will be televised live, nationally, on ESPN.

Zags climb in AP poll

The two WCC wins posted by GU last week boosted the Zags from 13th to 12th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 rankings. The Bulldogs moved up one spot behind No. 11 Louisville (23-4), which was ranked No. 12 last week.

Washington (21-4) also advanced one spot in the rankings to No. 14.

Illinois (27-0), the lone unbeaten Division I team in the country, maintained its No. 1 ranking for the 12th straight week, but Kansas (20-3), which was ranked No. 2 last week, slipped to No. 8 after losing to Texas Tech in double overtime and Iowa State in overtime.

North Carolina (22-3) moved up from No. 4 to replace the Jayhawks at No. 2. The Tar Heels are followed in this week’s top 10 by Boston College (22-1), Oklahoma State (20-3), Kentucky (20-3), Wake Forest (22-4), Duke (19-4), Kansas, Arizona (23-4) and Michigan State (19-4).

Gonzaga held at No. 16 in this week’s USA Today/ESPN poll, with Washington checking in at No. 13. Illinois also maintained its top spot in the rankings.

Doudney on the mend

After undergoing recent surgery to repair the damage he suffered to his left knee in GU’s 54-52 road win over Washington State back on Dec. 7, junior shooting guard Nathan Doudney has started walking again without crutches.

The 6-foot-4 transfer from Texas Tech tore his anterior cruciate ligament after landing awkwardly during a loose-ball scramble and was lost for the season after playing in only seven games.

School officials are looking into possibly petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for Doudney, but the outlook isn’t good.

Under NCAA rules, an injured player must have played in less than 20 percent of his team’s scheduled regular-season game to be eligible for a hardship waiver. Doudney, by playing in seven of GU’s 27 scheduled regular-season games, exceeded that limit.

“We went past the number of games you’re allowed to play,” Doudney said, “and the fact that I used my redshirt season under the (NCAA’s) transfer rule probably works against me. We’ll present the information, but it’s out of my control now. The NCAA will have to make a decision based on its rules.

“But regardless of whether I get the year back or not, I’ll be ready to go next fall. The surgery went as good as it can go.”

Prior to being injured, Doudney was averaging 19.9 minutes and 3.3 points per game, while shooting 33.3 percent (9-27) from the field and 21.1 percent (4-19) from 3-point range.

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