Gonzaga falls to BYU, jolting potential NCAA tournament seeding
We weren't even a full 30 minutes into the month of March and we already have our first eyebrow-raising result.
If you didn't, or couldn't, stay up past the stroke of midnight eastern to see what happened out in Spokane, Wash., then you missed a final score that is going to have an impact on myriad seeding lines in two weeks. Gonzaga, the No. 3 team in the country, fell at home to conference rival, BYU. The 73-70 win by the Cougars not only slid them closer to the field of 68, but ...
It might have just dropped the Bulldogs from the group of No. 1 seeds.
Gonzaga entered the night with a 29-1 record, but a thin resume for one of the four top seeds. Its best wins? At home against SMU in the second game of the season and against St. John's on a neutral court to win the Preseason NIT on Thanksgiving weekend. That's about it. The Bulldogs had already won the West Coast Conference regular-season title, clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week, so for them getting a No. 1 seed was a fairly easy path: Just don't lose.
But the trickle down comes from more than just what happened against BYU; what else happened on Saturday across the country ties to that result.
The result with the most direct correlation to Gonzaga's, was Arizona knocking off No. 13 Utah on the road only a hour earlier. That in all likelihood means that not only do the Bulldogs fall from No. 1, but they also stand a very good chance of being shipped out of the West Region.
Depending on which bracket projections you're listening to, Villanova would slide in to take Gonzaga's place on the 1-line. Wisconsin, assuming it doesn't suffer any losses before the Big Ten championship, likely sits in the driver's seat in that scenario. That means, the highest-seeded team out west becomes Arizona, and not Gonzaga.
That 66-63 overtime loss to the Wildcats on Dec. 6 in Tucson, is now working against Mark Few's team to an even greater degree.
With Arizona's win, Gonzaga probably gets sent to the South or Midwest regions even if the Bulldogs run the table and win the WCC title next week. For Gonzaga to get back into serious consideration for that final No. 1 seed (we're assuming that Kentucky, Virginia and Duke don't fall flat between now and Selection Sunday), a lot of things are going to need to happen.
Gonzaga will be rooting for Villanova, which won the Big East regular-season title on Saturday, to lose to either Creighton or St. John's and take an early exit in the Big East Tournament. It's probably going to be rooting heavily against Wisconsin and Kansas, as well.
• MORE: Arizona shows toughness in win over Utah |
Right now, that path to a No. 1 seed seems like a longshot.
The saving grace? Arizona continuing to win could help Gonzaga stay home in the West Region in Los Angeles. If the Wildcats were to somehow slide into that final one-seed slot, Gonzaga stands a realistic chance of being able to be the region's No. 2 seed and ride a Seattle (or Portland) sub-regional into Los Angeles.
And you know what? That might be the best thing for Gonzaga.
Remember two years ago, when the Zags roared through the regular season and conference tournament? They earned a No. 1 overall seed and were nearly upset in the first round by Southern, before losing in the Round of 32 to Wichita State.
The skeptics were already preparing opening arguments this week against Gonzaga being a No. 1 seed even before the BYU loss. Now after that result, it's hard to see how the Bulldogs can get back up to the top line.
Given how this is a program that always seems to shine brightest when no one is looking, that might not be such a bad outcome.