LAS VEGAS – Rewind to last week and Gonzaga entered the postseason kicking around pros and cons of the old rust-vs.-rest debate.
After looking awfully rested in throttling Pepperdine and awfully rusty in falling to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament title game, the Zags left Las Vegas with more pressing concerns.
Did they undercut their chances at a No. 1 seed? Did they leave behind a blueprint for future opponents to copy in the NCAA Tournament?
More in the latest Gonzaga rewind.
Seeds of anxiety
Gonzaga (30-3) wants to be a No. 1 seed. It still has the resume of a No. 1 seed. For 32 of 33 games, it passed the No. 1 seed eye test. Does one loss to an opponent that was on the bubble pre-Tuesday undo all of that?
Probably not, with an emphasis on the probably. Most bracket pundits tend to agree, though SI.com did move Gonzaga to a second seed.
Most of the numbers remain favorable for the Zags. They dropped just one spot to No. 2, flopping spots with Virginia, in the latest NET rankings. Saint Mary’s moved from No. 37 to No. 34.
The NET has replaced RPI as a primary evaluation tool for the selection committee.
The days leading up to Selection Sunday will be packed with analysts chattering about seeding and whether the Zags are a one or a two. Some of that discussion will focus on Gonzaga’s 4-3 record in Quadrant 1 games (home vs. NET top 30, road vs. top 75, neutral court vs. top 50).
In number of wins and winning percentage, the Zags lag behind the gaggle of seven to eight teams in the mix for the top two seed lines. North Carolina, for example, has climbed to the No. 1 seed in several projections with a strong regular-season finish and a 9-5 Quadrant 1 mark. The Tar Heels also defeated Gonzaga in December in Chapel Hill.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, USA Today and CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish and Jerry Palm are among those who still have Gonzaga as a first seed – with a caveat. Teams such as Michigan State/Michigan, Tennessee/Kentucky and Duke/North Carolina could surge past the Zags with championship runs in their respective conference tournaments.
“They’re not going to be the No. 1 overall (seed),” Palm said of Gonzaga. “I think Gonzaga will still end up on the one line in the end because the competition for that spot is going to be beating each other up in these conference tournaments.
“I’m keeping them at No. 2 overall, but I think there’s a chance they could get jumped but not all the way down (to a two seed).”
The bottom line is there isn’t that much difference between a one or two seed. The bigger consideration for the Zags is location – they appear bound for Salt Lake City or San Jose, California – and more important, the matchups within their bracket.
Gonzaga’s standing in other key metrics is generally strong. They’re No. 2 in KenPom but slipped to No. 11 in the Kevin Pauga Index (KPI).
Troubling signs or blip on radar?
If you had No. 8-seeded Pepperdine and No. 7 San Diego winning three straight games, Gonzaga scoring 47 points (its lowest since a 76-41 loss to Duke in December 2009), and an all-tournament team led by Jordan Hunter of Saint Mary’s, congrats on cleaning up at the casino.
If you’re fretting over teams adopting the Gaels’ victory formula against the Zags, you’re probably not alone. Keep in mind opposing coaching staffs have been dissecting Gonzaga’s games for four months and the general consensus has been they have few weaknesses. Still, prospective foes will devour every second of the GU-SMC videotape.
Rebounding has been something of a recurring theme, but the offense experiencing a bad day at the office is a new entry. Saint Mary’s slowed the pace and controlled the boards. Gonzaga’s shot selection was dismal and its field-goal percentage suffered.
Several players pointed to an overall lack of energy and physical play.
“Like coach (Mark Few) said, it’s a bump in the road, it’s not a ditch,” said point guard Josh Perkins, who was just 4 of 14 from the field and had more turnovers (five) than assists (four).
Follow along with the Zags
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