The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been holding down the number one ranking for quite some time now in college basketball. They entered the weekend with an impressive 29-0 record as they prepared for their final game of the season. That game would happen on Saturday night at home against BYU, the West Coast Conference’s third best team.
Many thought the game was simply a formality, as they expected the Zags to cruise to their 30th win of the season. But unfortunately for Mark Few and his team, BYU came to play. The Cougars were not going to let Gonzaga walk into the conference tournament with a perfect record, and they took down one of the Nation’s top teams by the score of 79-71.
Just like that, the Zags were no longer perfect. They will no doubt lose the number one ranking later today when the polls are released. But even more importantly, could this loss cost them a one seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament?
Well, we cannot answer that question right now, as there is still conference tournaments to be played. But let’s take a look at some things we do know in an effort to get our answer.
Let’s start with the preview of the top 16 teams we were given by the committee a few weeks back. At this time, the Bulldogs were obviously still undefeated and considered by many to be the number one overall seed for the Big Dance. When the committee released their top 16, they had Gonzaga as the fourth one seed.
Ahead of them was Villanova, Kansas, and Baylor. Not only was this a slap in the face for the team playing in a smaller conference, but it showed the committee’s hand. They were clearly sending the message that they are devaluing the Zags for their schedule, despite their impressive play. They did claim there was no one close to overtaking any of the four, but plenty has happened since.
Since that time, Villanova and Kansas have done nothing to have them fall behind Gonzaga. So we are going to operate under the impression that those two are pretty well locked into their respective one seeds, even if they fail to capture their respective conference tournament titles. So with those two holding down the East and Midwest regions, that leaves two top line slots left.
As things stand right now, Baylor has shifted to the backburner in terms of claiming a one seed. They have lost three of their last four and have two more games remaining on their regular season schedule. If they can take down West Virginia and Texas, followed by a Big 12 Conference Tournament title, they will once again get themselves in the discussion.
Outside of them, there are certainly a handful of contenders. UNC is the leader in the pack in terms of the ACC. They were the team that likely replaced Baylor in the top four once the Bears started to stumble. Given the Tar Heels are rolling right now, dispatching of Virginia and Louisville over the last few weeks, they likely need to lose twice before dropping from the one line. They face Duke and Virginia to close the regular season, so that is not entirely out of the question. If Lousiville could close the season without another loss, including a win in the ACC Tournament, they could sneak their way to the top line over UNC.
Then we go out West. Since the ACC will likely hold down the South region, it will be the Pac 12 that poses the biggest problem for Gonzaga. The conference has three really good teams this season. Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona all have their claims for National championship contenders. Of the three, only two are likely in the one seed discussion at the moment.
Those two clubs would be Oregon and UCLA. Oregon has been seen as the top team in the conference for most of the season. They are likely to enter the conference tournament as the top seed, with their only regular season game left being against Oregon State. But after UCLA’s win over Arizona this Saturday, they have climbed into the discussion as well.
But when all is said and done, it will be whoever wins the Pac 12 conference Tournament that will have the best claim for a one seed. If Oregon wins it, they are a virtual lock for a one. If UCLA wins it, they will likely win the West over the Zags. If Arizona wins it, it will be a close call.
But one more important thing to mention: Gonzaga needs to take care of their business in the WCC Tournament. If the Zags fall in that, they can kiss their one seed goodbye, as the committee will not give them a top line slot with two losses.
As things stand right now, I have a gut feeling that the Bulldogs are going to get screwed out of a one. Unless something funky happens in the ACC or Pac 12 Tournaments, there is plenty of competition for two one slots. With three monsters playing out West along with the Zags, earning top honors in that region is far from a given.
But one thing we can surely count on, this is going to be a fun ride through Selection Sunday. Uncertainty is what makes that day so special. With so many questions remaining, it will be fun to see how things play out.
So what do you think? Will Gonzaga lose their one seed? Should they? Tell us what you think in the comments!