Borderline Saint Mary’s in Gonzaga’s
by Patrick Stevens, Special for USA TODAY Sports
Days until Selection Sunday: 6
The big picture:
If Gonzaga is to secure a No. 1 seed, one part of the equation will be completed Monday night.
The Bulldogs control only part of this situation, and they’ve controlled it rather nicely for nearly the entire season. Gonzaga enters the West Coast Conference title game at 30-2, with a solid RPI (11), a 5-2 record against the top 50 and a 13-game winning streak.
They also have an unremarkable (in comparison to, say, Georgetown or Kansas or Louisville) strength of schedule off 88. That’s not bad, but it isn’t a top-20 schedule. And there’s nothing Mark Few’s crew could have done given the lack of depth to the WCC.
But Gonzaga won and won and won, so it did what it was supposed to do. But the reality is a team that blitzes through the Big 12 (Kansas) or Big East (Georgetown or Louisville) or perhaps Big Ten (Michigan State) tournaments this week is going to pile up opportunities to improve their profile.
Gonzaga, meanwhile, gets to play Saint Mary’s — which is nice, but it doesn’t pack the same punch.
So the Bulldogs can take care of things tonight, and feel good knowing they shouldn’t be any worse than a No. 2 seed come Selection Sunday. Whether they end up on the top line, though, depends on what sort of surges occur elsewhere.
Hot seat: Middle Tennessee
While Gonzaga might have some mild anxiety about something that’s relatively subtle — as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, the Bulldogs will still have a chance in the NCAA tournament — Middle Tennessee has a far more serious problem on its hands.
At 28-5, the Blue Raiders might play their next game in the field of 68. Or, they might be one of the best teams in the NIT field, a damning description of any team.
That’s the price of Sunday’s 61-57 loss to Florida International in Sunday’s Sun Belt finals. After three leagues with the potential for bid thievery (Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley and West Coast) eliminated that possibility with little incident, the Sun Belt has sent a truly tricky … [For more on Bubble Watch: Borderline Saint Mary's in Gonzaga's way to No. 1 seed, click here.]