Nigel Williams-Goss scored 19 points and handed out six assists as No. 5 Gonzaga used a game-ending, 21-4 run as the Bulldogs beat No. 21 Saint Mary’s, 79-56.
Here are three takeaways from this season’s first installment of the WCC’s best rivalry:
1. It’s time to start talking about the potential of Gonzaga entering March undefeated: The Zags are the only undefeated team left in America. They’re legitimately ranked No. 5 in America. They have arguably the most underrated back court in college basketball – Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins are two former five-star point guard prospects that can share a starting lineup – and this may be the most talented, versatile and deep front line that Mark Few has ever had.
And to top it all off, they just beat their only real challenger in the WCC by 23 points.
It’s nothing close to a lock yet, not when the Zags still have to make a return trip to Moraga to play at Saint Mary’s, but it’s starting to look more and more like a real possibility that Gonzaga can enter March undefeated. The trip to Saint Mary’s will be tough, and BYU has the offensive firepower to make a run at just about anyone. The WCC is not a great league, but it is tough for Gonzaga to go on the road and take every team’s best shot in a gym packed to capacity.
Mark Few’s team has their work cut out for them.
But it’s time to start considering the possibility.
2. Which means you need to get ready for the No. 1 seed controversy!: It’s going to happen, and you know it. If the Zags run the table in the WCC and win the conference tournament title, they should be a No. 1 seed. When you enter Selection Sunday at 34-0, you get a No. 1 seed. That should be a hard-and-fast rule written into the tournament bylaws.
The bigger question is going to be what happens if Gonzaga has one or two losses on Selection Sunday, particularly in UCLA puts together the kind of résumé that we should expect them to. Then who would get the No. 1 seed out west? In an absolute best-case scenario, Gonzaga will have three wins over Saint Mary’s and wins over Arizona, Iowa State and Florida on neutral floors.
That’s not great, but it will give us plenty of fodder to argue about on podcasts and in columns.
3. Jock Landale’s inability to stay out of foul trouble ruined this matchup: Landale, the star center for Saint Mary’s, is a legitimate all-american candidate, but he spent the first 20 minutes on Saturday night battling foul trouble. He played just six minutes, and the Gaels entered the half lucky to be down just nine points. In the second half, Saint Mary’s looked like they were on the verge of taking this thing to the wire, but Landale committed three dumb fouls in the second half, getting sent to the bench as Gonzaga closed the game on a 21-4 run that made this game look like a mollywhopping instead of a WCC title fight.