Moments after putting away Santa Clara and capping Senior Day with another conference title, Gonzaga Coach Lisa Fortier was equal parts cheerful and relieved.
“I’m really proud of them,” Fortier said Saturday. “It was gritty and they gutted it out.”
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks … grinding things out,” Fortier said after the Zags won at least a share of the West Coast Conference title.
The grind will continue with road games at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, but the Zags got the week off to a good start by moving up two spots, to 13th, in the Associated Press media poll.
GU (25-2 overall and 14-1 in the WCC) moved ahead of Oregon State and Florida State, both of which lost to unranked foes last week.
However, GU is losing ground in the Ratings Percentage Index. Despite winning two games, the Zags fell two more spots to 13th.
The Zags are competing with those teams and others to finish among the top 16 according to metrics applied by the NCAA. The top 16 will host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games.
Only two Power 5 teams (South Carolina and Baylor) have fewer losses than GU, which is 25-2 overall and 14-1 in the WCC.
However, the WCC is ranked only 11th in conference RPI, meaning that any losses by GU would probably put them outside the top 16.
After the L.A. trip, Gonzaga concludes regular-season play at Portland on Feb. 29. GU already has clinched the top seed in the WCC Tournament and is seeded into the semifinals on March 9 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino.
The consensus of experts is that GU must run the table in those last five games to host NCAA games. However, it’s possible that they could still host with one more loss, provided they get help via losses by other competing teams.
Last year, GU was 27-4 going into the WCC tourney, but lost Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend to injuries and then lost the WCC title game to BYU.
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