The Big East is no threat to Gonzaga for the No. 1 seed in the West. The watered-down conference can produce no more than one top-seeded team, which would hold down the D.C. Regional anyway. The Big Ten runner-up is more likely to snag a No. 1 in the East, where the Big East’s absence of a signature team gives way to other conferences to send one of theirs. And given the downward trajectory of Duke, still with several losable games on its docket, the ACC is likely maxed out with one No. 1 in line for the South.
The Big 12 certainly isn’t stealing a 1-seed from Gonzaga, not after the Bulldogs blitzed five of the league’s top-seven teams during the non-conference. The Fightin’ Fews clubbed Oklahoma and Kansas State on neutral courts, edged Oklahoma State in Stillwater, handled Baylor at home and dissected West Virginia in front of a raucous Kennel crowd. That’s three wins over the RPI Top 25 – all away from home – and five against the RPI Top 100 by an average of 16.6 points per game.
Six more wins before the Big Dance puts the Bulldogs at 31-2 with no bad losses, roughly a dozen quality wins, a perfect conference record and strong finish to the season, which the committee emphasizes. Gonzaga has already proven it can handle – better yet, thump – high-major competition, surging through the RPI’s 14th-toughest non-conference slate. If not for a last-second in-bounds blunder at Butler, Mark Few’s team would have four Top 25 RPI wins away from home, the most such wins of any team in the land.
So maybe a national championship doesn’t run through Spokane, but barring a hiccup down the stretch, the road to Atlanta by way of the L.A. Regional will. Expect to see these Bulldogs in four weeks as the top dogs out West.