Gonzaga did their job.
The No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament and the No. 4 team in the country took care of business against No. 19 Saint Mary’s, picking up their third straight double-digit win over the Gaels in a 74-56 win in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
And with that, Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament résumé is complete.
They are 32-1 on the season. They went 20-1 against WCC opponents, including posting a 3-0 mark against the Gaels. They have a win over Arizona. They have a win over Florida. They have a win over Iowa State. All three of those wins came on a neutral floor. Considering what Gonzaga is stacked up against in terms of their ability to schedule, and factoring in that Tennessee, Washington and San Diego State all put together seasons that were different levels of disappointing, it’s about as impressive of a profile as the Zags are capable of putting together.
So now they wait.
As of today, the Zags are a No. 1 seed in the latest NBC Sports Bracketology, but like a golfer in the clubhouse with a one-stroke lead while Jordan Speith just started on the back-nine, the Zags can do nothing but sit back and watch how this plays out.
Because there are three teams in the Pac-12 gunning for that No. 1 spot.
That’s really all the Zags have to worry about at this point. If one of Oregon, Arizona or UCLA puts together a run to the Pac-12 tournament title, they’ll have a pretty strong argument for being the No. 1 seed out West. All three have similar enough résumés that there really isn’t one specific team that they have to worry about. UCLA has the best set of wins, including road wins against Kentucky and Arizona and five total top ten wins if they beat Arizona and Oregon en route to the title, but their non-conference schedule was weak. Oregon has the most top 100 wins and a share of the league title, but they struggled early without Dillon Brooks and lost to Colorado with him. Arizona has no bad losses and played a good schedule, but they have the fewest elite wins of the three.
And there’s nothing else Gonzaga can do beyond rooting as hard as they can that those teams lose.
But here’s the thing: Gonzaga is guaranteed a top two seed in the West. However you slice it, they are going to be in a good spot to get to a Final Four.
The more interesting case in the WCC might be the seeding of Saint Mary’s. The Gaels ranked 19th nationally and 19th in the RPI. They are 28-4 on the season and, by just about any metric available, are a really good team. Case in point: KenPom has them 12th nationally, right behind Baylor and in front of the likes of Duke, UCLA and Oregon.
They haven’t really done much to prove that on the floor, though. They won at Dayton, which is probably more impressive than you realize, and they beat the MWC champs Nevada in the season-opener. They have a win at Stanford — meh — and smothered everyone in the WCC not named Gonzaga. But they were also smoked by the Zags all three times they played them and also took a home loss to UT-Arlington.
Going 28-1 against everyone not named Gonzaga is impressive, but they are like Gonzaga Light in the sense that there isn’t all that much there to like.
What this could mean is that the Gaels fall all the way to the 8-9 game, which would put whichever No. 1 seed they draw into a tough situation.
There are going to be a number of really interesting seeding decisions for the committee to make — Wichita State and SMU among them — but Saint Mary’s may top that list, even with Gonzaga in the picture.