By doing little more than dominating a terrible conference, Gonzaga will ascend Monday to No. 1 in the nation. In a season in which power conference heavyweights have thrown haymakers at each other, Gonzaga has inched its way up the rankings by taking the best shots of lightweights Santa Clara, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
Despite a strength of schedule of 93, the worst of any team in last week's top 20, Gonzaga is rocking the No. 1 finger loud and proud. Good for them. This is the way polls work. Even if you feast on cupcakes, you move up by default, especially this season.
Gonzaga will be No. 1 largely because it is named Gonzaga. If Portland, also of the dreadful West Coast Conference, had the same resume, where do you think it would be ranked?
At this point in 2012 entering its conference tournament, No. ?9 Murray State was 28-1 with a 2-0 record against ranked teams. A year later, Gonzaga has both an inferior record overall (29-2) and against ranked teams (1-2). So go figure.
Don't scoff at the Murray State comparison. One of the ranked teams it beat last year was No. 16 St. Mary's by 14 points. This year, Gonzaga has taken down an inferior version of the unranked Gaels by 17 and five points. Another telling note: St. Mary's is 14-0 against the rest of the putrid WCC.
So who should be ranked ahead of the new No.?1? While Gonzaga has not played a top-10 team, Duke and Indiana have played four top-10s each and have won them all. Georgetown -- with 11 straight wins in the brutal Big East -- deserves to be ranked higher than Gonzaga. You could even make a case for Saint Louis, which has 11 straight wins in the rugged Atlantic 10.
Gonzaga got its shot at an A-10 team Jan. 19 when it traveled to Butler. But in the battle of the mid-major Bulldogs, Butler was a 64-63 winner, even with its best player, Rotnei Clarke, sidelined. After the game Butler (16-2) was ranked No. 9 and Gonzaga (17-2) No.?10. Since then, their paths have diverged largely because of who they have played. Butler has gone 6-5 in the A-10, while Gonzaga has gone 12-0 in the WCC.
Put Gonzaga in the A-10 and Butler in the WCC and where do you think these teams would be today?
- Kevin Dunleavy