Kelly Olynyk

Gonzaga deserves No. 1 ranking, but not necessarily a No. 1 seed

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It’s official: for the first time in school history, Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the country.

51 of the 65 voters in the AP Poll put them there. So did 29 of the 31 voters in the Coaches Poll.

(CLICK HERE: To see both the AP and the Coaches top 25)

Does this mean that Gonzaga is the best team in the country? Of course not. If there’s anything that we have learned this season, it’s that there really isn’t any single ‘best’ team. Indiana and Kansas and Duke and every other team in the top eight or nine right now is just as good as the Zags. Maybe better.

But as of today, that doesn’t matter.

Because the way the polls work, if you lose, you drop. If you continue to win, you move up. It doesn’t matter whether or not those wins are coming against Portland while those losses are coming of the road to Virginia or Maryland. That’s part of the reason that, thankfully, top 25 rankings play absolutely no role in determining anything in our sport beyond what the little number is that shows up next to a team’s name during broadcasts.

Here’s the bottom-line: Gonzaga has as much of a right to the No. 1 ranking as anyone in the country right now, regardless of conference affiliation. They beat West Virginia by 34. They beat Oklahoma by 25 in the Old Spice Classic. They beat Kansas State — who just so happens to be in the top 10 — by 16. They beat Baylor by seven. They went into Stillwater and knocked off Oklahoma State. In other words, the Zags would be battling Kansas for Big 12 superiority if they were located in Shawnee, KS, instead of Spokane, WA.

Let’s take it a step further: Gonzaga’s two losses this season came when Brandon Paul lit them up for 36 points and when Roosevelt Jones made one of the most exciting and fluky plays of the season.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that Gonzaga belongs in the conversation among the other national title contenders.

But what’s intriguing about this team is that, even if they win the WCC tournament next week, there’s a chance that they could end up falling off the No. 1 seed line in the NCAA tournament.

Only twice since 2000 has a No. 1 seed had a strength of schedule that was lower than Gonzaga’s, which is currently 71st in the country. Both times it was Stanford, who had a schedule strength of 96th in 2004 and 82nd in 2000. There have only been three times where a No. 1 seed has come from outside the Power Six conferences, and all three times — Memphis in 2008, St. Joe’s in 2004, and Cincinnati (then of Conference USA) in 2002 — had schedule strengths in the top 50.

(USA Today’s Eric Prisbell did the legwork researching those numbers.)

This isn’t entirely Gonzaga’s fault, mind you. West Virginia was predicted to be a top 25 team and Baylor was thought to have a chance to crack the top 15. Washington State wasn’t expected to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12, and it just so happens that BYU and St. Mary’s are both a bit down this season. It happens to everyone, I know, but when you play in a mid-major conference and seven of your top ten opponents are worse than expected, it’s going to sting.

There’s only so much that the Zags are able to do, and in my mind, they’ve done enough to be ranked No. 1.

Because it’s irrelevant.

What matters is where they are seeded, and whether or not they deserve a No. 1 seed is a different post for a different day.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

 

WATCH LIVE: Davidson battles Duquesne on NBCSN

Davidson's Jack Gibbs (12) tries to drive past Iowa's Mike Gesell during the first half of an NCAA tournament college basketball game in the Round of 64 in Seattle, Friday, March 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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Two teams try to make a move up the standings in the Atlantic 10 as Davidson travels to Duquesne. This game can be seen live on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m. EST.

The Wildcats (12-8, 4-5) have dropped consecutive games to VCU and George Washington as they try to rebuild some momentum. Junior guard Jack Gibbs leads the way for Davidson as he’s one of the country’s most prolific scorers at 25.3 points per game.

Duquesne (15-7, 5-4) is riding a three-game winning streak as they’ve played much better since a four-game losing streak at the start of conference play. The perimeter duo of Derrick Colter and Micah Mason is one of the best in the Atlantic 10 and facing Gibbs and Davidson should be a fun matchup in the backcourt.

CLICK HERE to watch this game on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

BUBBLE BANTER: Today’s key bubble games

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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HERE IS THE FULL SCHEDULE OF BUBBLE GAMES TODAY. THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AND NIGHT.

Florida State (KenPom: 40, RPI: 38) at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
George Washington (KenPom: 82, RPI: 49) at VCU, 12:00 p.m.
Cincinnati (KenPom: 33, RPI: 65) at Memphis, 12:00 p.m.
Temple (KenPom: 92, RPI: 74) at UCF, 12:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 57, RPI: 37) at Fordham, 2:00 p.m.
New Mexico at San Diego State (KenPom: 68, RPI: 57), 4:00 p.m.
Pacific at BYU (KenPom: 58, RPI: 54), 4:00 p.m.
No. 25 South Carolina (KenPom: 53, RPI: 30) at No. 8 Texas A&M 4:00 p.m.
Clemson (KenPom: 49, RPI: 73) at Virginia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
Cal (KenPom: 43, RPI: 39) at Stanford (KenPom: 102, RPI: 63), 4:00 p.m.
Valparaiso (KenPom: 23, RPI: 36) at UIC, 4:00 p.m.
Butler (KenPom: 42, RPI: 61) at St. John’s, 4:30 p.m.
No. 23 Arizona at Washington (KenPom: 74, RPI: 51), 4:30 p.m.
Auburn at Georgia (KenPom: 71, RPI: 62), 5:30 p.m.
Mississippi State at LSU (KenPom: 55, RPI: 72), 6:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt (KenPom: 52, RPI: 31) at Ole Miss, 8:00 p.m.
Colorado (KenPom: 56, RPI: 23) at Oregon State (KenPom:84 , RPI: 41), 8:30 p.m.
Georgetown (KenPom: 60, RPI: 70) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 44), 9:00 p.m.
Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 30, RPI: 54) at San Diego, 9:00 p.m.
Gonzaga (KenPom: 35, RPI: 71) at Pepperdine, 12:00 a.m.