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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

February Madness: Historic day for college basketball capped with No. 1 Gonzaga’s loss to No. 23 Saint Mary’s

UPDATED: Sat., Feb. 26, 2022

MORAGA, Calif. – Gonzaga’s chances of an unbeaten West Coast Conference regular season were spoiled Saturday night with a 67-57 loss to Saint Mary’s, but after a historic day for college basketball the Bulldogs may not drop too far in the national rankings come Monday morning.

If they drop at all.

This may not quell the sting of defeat, but at least No. 1 Gonzaga could commiserate with four other top-five teams, and six other top-10 teams, that all suffered the same fate the Bulldogs did Saturday.

About the same time GU and No. 23 Saint Mary’s tipped off in Moraga, former Zags assistant Tommy Lloyd and No. 2 Arizona lost 79-63 to unranked Colorado in Boulder. Minutes later, No. 10 Baylor finished off No. 5 Kansas 80-70 in Waco, Texas. Earlier , more top-five madness ensued with host No. 17 Tennessee edging out No. 3 Auburn in Knoxville, and unranked Michigan State topping No. 4 Purdue 85-85 in East Lansing, Michigan.

Arizona’s loss means the Wildcats probably won’t gain much ground, if any, on Gonzaga when it comes to who claims the No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed in the West Region. AP Top 25 voters are guaranteed to have a predicament on their hands when they fill out their Week 17 ballots.

Each of the top-five teams absorbed losses on Saturday, and the top 10 went just 2-7 with No. 6 Kentucky losing 75-73 at No. 18 Arkansas and No. 9 Texas Tech falling 69-66 at TCU. The only top-10 wins belonged to No. 7 Duke, which handled Syracuse 97-72 at the Carrier Dome, and No. 10 Baylor in the win over Kansas.

It signified the first time in college basketball history each of the country’s top-six teams lost, and seven top-10 teams, lost on the same day, according to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.

“I’m guessing they were all on the road,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Again, winning on the road against good teams is hard, and (Saint Mary’s) is a really, really good team. It’s an old team and it’s a smart team. It’s really well-coached, great crowd and they played to their crowd. I can’t speak to those other games, I glanced at a couple of them, but it’s kind of life in late February and early March. Especially on the road.”

While there were seven casualties inside the top 10, the teams ranked Nos. 11-25 preserved what otherwise may have been a completely destructive day for the Top 25. Providence (No. 11), UCLA (No. 12), Wisconsin (No. 13), USC (No. 16), Tennessee (No. 17), Arkansas (No. 18) Murray State (No. 19) Texas (No. 20), Saint Mary’s and Alabama (No. 24) combined to go 10-0.

Few’s Bulldogs and Lloyd’s Wildcats are thought to be the top contenders for the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Gonzaga has been projected as the No. 1 overall seed since Auburn lost to Arkansas on Feb. 8, dropping the top-ranked Tigers below the Zags in the AP rankings.

In an ESPN.com article recapping Saturday’s results, bracketology expert Joe Lunardi wrote, “The Zags stay right where they started, joining a long list of marquee programs to be reminded of the two worst four-letter words in the sport: road game. It’s the common and obvious thread connecting all of Saturday’s upsets.”

Lunardi also wrote, “Some will say Gonzaga suffered the worst loss in the top 10, but only if they’ve never been to Moraga.”

Saturday’s loss may not have drastic repercussions come tournament time, but that didn’t make the night any easier on the Bulldogs, could see the Gaels for the third time in the championship game of the WCC Tournament.

Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton had been involved in court storming while playing at his two previous schools, Penn State and Iowa State, but never on the losing side. Bolton, who paced the Bulldogs with 16 points – 10 coming in the second half – attributed the late-season upsets to hostile road environments where teams of GU’s stature often bring out the best in their opposition.

“I think it’s just the competitive nature of teams all across the country,” Bolton said. “You go into games against top-ranked teams or whatever it is, seeing the percentages and win percentage and stuff like that. So I just think teams are competitive and they always want to come out with the win, and we’ll get people’s best shots so we’ve got to be able to take that and be able to respond and roll with things like that.”

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