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John Blanchette: Zags to the MWC? That’s hysterical, or good sense

UPDATED: Mon., March 5, 2018

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell shoots over San Diego State forward Malik Pope in the Dec. 21, 2017 game won by the Mountain West Conference’s Aztecs. (Denis Poroy / Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell shoots over San Diego State forward Malik Pope in the Dec. 21, 2017 game won by the Mountain West Conference’s Aztecs. (Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS – Wandered down to the sports book at the Orleans Casino and, you guessed it, those best of buddies and Zags fans, Hysteria and Horse Sense, were sitting side by side with Bloody Marys in hand, finding a way to fill up the West Coast Conference Tournament’s day off. And the topic was hardly a surprise, since it’s all anyone is talking about down here.

Hysteria: “All those inscrutable metrics the NCAA basketball committee looks at to make the bracket – why don’t they just go with teams’ records against the point spread?”

Horse Sense: “You’re joking, right?”

Hysteria: “These Vegas guys are infallible.”

Horse Sense: “Did you see the line on Washington State-Oregon State yesterday?”

Hysteria: “See it? I know a guy who bet the Cougs.”

Horse Sense: “So who do you like today?”

Hysteria: “I’m betting on the Zags moving to the Mountain West Conference.”

Horse Sense: “I don’t see that on the board.”

Hysteria: “That’s because it’s such a lock they’ve taken it down.”

Horse Sense: “Don’t tell me …”

Hysteria: “MWC, baby! I can’t wait to get out of this one-horse conference!”

Horse Sense: “So your bags are packed?”

Hysteria: “I’m going to road-trip to every city in the league next season. Already got my flights to Reno, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque. I’m hoping there’ll be a hotel room for me in Laramie.”

Horse Sense: “They’ll have to build the hotel first. They’ll probably put it between the livery stable and blacksmith shop.”

Hysteria: “I knew it. Good old Doc Downer is here to perform the autopsy before there’s even a body.”

Horse Sense: “You don’t think this is just a bluff by the Zags? That they’re just trying to cut a deal to keep more of the NCAA Tournament money they’ve been sharing with their fellow WCC members all these years? That this is their club to get the conference to grasp that participation is not competition?”

Hysteria: “I hate bluffing. I have no poker face.”

Horse Sense: “I hadn’t noticed.”

Hysteria: “Mountain West or bust!”

Horse Sense: “I’m just trying to understand why you have such happy feet.”

Hysteria: “Because the WCC is dragging down the Zags! It’s a bunch of nowhere teams sitting in a nowhere league making all their nowhere plans for nobody.”

Horse Sense: “Yeah, such terrible outposts – San Diego, Malibu, San Francisco …”

Hysteria: “Nowhere man, please listen. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Horse Sense: “You’d better stop before you have to pay royalties.”

Hysteria: “This is a slam dunk, man. The Mountain West is just a better league. There’s real competition. It’s not a coronation every year. They put five teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2013, and four in 2010 and ’12. Nine different schools have won the regular-season title and the league is only 19 years old.”

Horse Sense: “You realize one of those schools was BYU – which hasn’t managed to win the WCC once since it abandoned the Mountain West.”

Hysteria: “Well, sure, but that’s because the Zags win it every year, and when they take a quick nap, Saint Mary’s wins it.”

Horse Sense: “My point exactly. Don’t you think Gonzaga brings a lot more to the Mountain West than the MWC brings to Gonzaga?”

Hysteria: “What do you mean?”

Horse Sense: “For all those multiple-bid years in the NCAAs, how many times has the Mountain West had teams advance beyond the Sweet 16 since the bracket went to 64?”

Hysteria: “I hate trivia more than I hate bluffing.”

Horse Sense: “Zero. And they’ve only had five Sweet 16 teams since 1990, and two of those schools jumped ship. Meanwhile, the Zags have been to two Elite Eights and one Final Four. Since GU started its amazing run in 1999, the Zags have won 29 NCAA games; the MWC has won 20.”

Hysteria: “But the RPI! The Zags get killed because of Pepperdine and Portland and those teams.”

Horse Sense: “Yes, they do.”

Hysteria: “You mean I’m right? Wait, you always prove I’m never right. Forget what I said. Lock us into the WCC for life. Now.”

Horse Sense: “Not so fast. If the Zags have proven anything, it’s that you have to think ahead and not let the grass grow under your feet.”

Hysteria: “Ha ha! I was bluffing! I knew I’d bring you around.”

Horse Sense: “And so was I. Think about it. All these things the Zags have accomplished in the last 20 years –No. 1 rankings, No. 1 seeds, the Final Four. Maybe they achieved those things in spite of being in the WCC, but in the WCC nonetheless. They’ve had their highest NCAA seeds at a time when the chasm between them and middle and lower-end WCC teams has grown greater than ever. How does moving to what’s another midmajor conference truly benefit them?”

Hysteria: “Plus there’s something else.”

Horse Sense: “What’s that?”

Hysteria: “If the Zags leave, Saint Mary’s will never play a Top 25 team.”

Follow along with the Zags

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