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Gonzaga Basketball

Bracketology review: Kentucky win helped Gonzaga’s resume, but Bulldogs still have work to do for at-large NCAA berth

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Ben Gregg (33) reacts during the second half of a college basketball game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Gonzaga won the game 89-85.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A month from now, Gonzaga’s 89-85 victory at Rupp Arena on Saturday could be viewed as a huge catalyst for the Bulldogs’ 25th straight NCAA Tournament bid.

The result helps Gonzaga’s case, but bracketologists seem to agree the Bulldogs still need a few more quality victories – Quad 1 victories, in particular – before the regular season is over to put themselves in a position to earn an at-large NCAA berth on Selection Sunday.

Hours after Gonzaga pulled off an upset in Lexington, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi moved the Bulldogs up into the Next Four Out category on his updated projection sheet. Prior to the game, the Zags were among the four teams below Lunardi’s Next Four Out.

“Gonzaga suddenly has NCAA tournament life,” ESPN’s Jeff Borzello wrote. “The Zags’ postseason hopes essentially hinged on Saturday’s game, as they were without a Quadrant 1 win all season and this was one of their last chances to get one. They still need to take care of WCC business – and the regular-season finale at Saint Mary’s looms large – but Mark Few’s team now at least has a realistic chance moving forward.”

CBS Sports bracketology expert Jerry Palm still isn’t bullish on Gonzaga as an at-large team and didn’t include the Bulldogs in an updated bracket that was published Monday. Saint Mary’s, which currently has a two-game lead atop the WCC standings, is projected as a No. 9 seed in Palm’s bracket.

The latest NCAA Tournament projections from Stadium.com consider Gonzaga as one of the First Four Out.

The Inland Northwest could still send two men’s programs to the Big Dance, with Washington State and Eastern Washington both making appearances in Lunardi and Palm’s projections. 

Coming off their fifth straight victory, the Cougars are squarely in the 68-team field as of now according to Lunardi. Palm projects them as a No. 7 seed opening the tournament in Charlotte against 10th-seeded Texas A&M.

Eastern Washington, which is two games clear of Northern Colorado at the top of the Big Sky standings, was penciled in as a No. 15 seed in both Lunardi and Palm’s latest brackets. Both outlets project the Eagles to open the tournament against second-seeded Kansas, which would be a rematch of the first-round NCAA game in 2021.

The win at Kentucky only moved Gonzaga up one spot, to No. 24, in the NCAA NET rankings, but gave the Bulldogs their first Quad 1 victory. The Wildcats and Bulldogs flipped spots in the NET rankings, with John Calipari’s team falling to No. 25.

Gonzaga made up some ground in the AP Top 25 on Monday, but the Bulldogs are still on the outside looking in and sit eighth in the “receiving votes” category.

Eleven voters included Gonzaga on their latest AP ballot. Kyle Smith and the Cougars might be closer to an appearance in the weekly AP poll and are currently fifth among teams receiving votes. A total of 19 voters ranked the Cougars.

Ken Pomeroy’s metrics think highly of the Zags, who moved up to No. 19 in the KenPom rankings. The Cougars, meanwhile, are No. 41 in KenPom.

The Zags and Cougars are both receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll as well, respectively sitting at No. 30 and 34 in the country.