Two projected NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds lost in their conference tournaments.
Gonzaga wasn’t one of them.
Still, there was speculation Saturday that Gonzaga wasn’t safe as the No. 1 seed in the West. That’s where nearly every bracketologist had the Zags before the WCC tournament, alongside top-seeded Kansas, Villanova and North Carolina.
No. 4 Gonzaga took care of what it could control, handling No. 19 Saint Mary’s 74-56 in the championship game.
The Zags (32-1) are 6-0 against the top 50 RPI and 12-1 against the top 100. Saint Mary’s carries a strong RPI of 16.
So what changed? Duke got hot and knocked off Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame to win the ACC tournament. The Blue Devils have 13 top 50 wins, most in the country. They also have six top 50 losses and eight overall.
Arizona, which lost to GU in early December, claimed the Pac-12 tournament title with wins over UCLA (RPI 15) and Oregon (6). That bumped the Wildcats to a 6-4 record vs. the top 50.
Those results prompted discussion from several national outlets that the Pac-12 champion and/or Duke could dislodge Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed when the brackets are revealed on Selection Sunday.
“I just don’t get it,” said ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, reciting the Zags’ best wins. “I don’t know what more we could say to make the case for Gonzaga.
“I don’t really see any difference in the Pac-12 champion being the No. 2 seed in the West, to be slotted to potentially play the Zags in a regional final. We’re talking about uniform color.”
National analysts and bracketologists don’t make the final call. The selection committee decides. In a TV interview on Friday, committee chairman Mark Hollis was asked how resumes are compared between a power-conference and non power-conference team.
Hollis said the committee looks at the complete resumes, their nonconference scheduling choices and how they performed in their conference tournament on a neutral floor. He noted teams outside the power conferences have a smaller number of top-50 and top-100 games but “we’re looking at what was done with those opportunities.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few listens when the committee talks, and that’s one reason the Zags load up their nonconference schedule. This year’s slate included San Diego State, Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, Akron and Tennessee. The Zags were 15-0 in nonconference games.
Gonzaga went 8-0 on neutral courts – four against teams in the current top 25 – in Orlando, Florida; Los Angeles, Nashville, Tennessee; and Las Vegas.
Where does that leave the Zags? Probably still No. 1 in the West, though coach Mark Few didn’t seem too worried about it after Tuesday’s win. He said the Zags’ resume speaks for itself and if somebody has a better one, so be it.
The Zags will probably play in Sacramento, California, or Salt Lake City. The top-seeded Zags struggled past No. 16 Southern in the 2013 opening round with the crowd in Salt Lake City rooting for the underdog Jaguars.
“I mean if they want to cheer for us this year,” Few said of the possibility of returning to Salt Lake City. “If they want to do that crap they did last time, no. If we do have a following, let’s get them out there and make it some sort of advantage for us.
“But we’d be happy anywhere. I think this group is fine with wherever they seed us and wherever they send us. Obviously, we do have some great fans in Salt Lake and our people can get there. But we have a huge following in northern California and Sacramento, tons of alumni there and tons of fans, and it’s very easy to get to also.”
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