LAS VEGAS – The sun did come up Tuesday morning in Southern Nevada, although it was hidden by clouds as heavy as the ones surrounding Gonzaga’s chances of hosting NCAA Tournament games next week.
That night, bracketologist Charlie Creme moved the Zags from a No. 3 seed down to a No. 4, keeping GU in Spokane.
Even better, Creme has the Zags slotted for the Portland regional should they win twice at the Kennel.
That’s partly because GU’s résumé is still solid despite falling to a Pilots team that’s only 108th in RPI.
GU is 28-3 overall, 12th in the Rating Percentage Index and 10th in the Power Index.
More important, there doesn’t figure to be much movement involving the teams projected as Nos. 4 and 5 seeds.
Of the teams pegged as No. 5 seeds by Creme, three – Indiana, Florida State and Texas A&M – have finished their conference tournaments.
The other, Missouri State, potentially has three more Missouri Valley Conference tournament games to boost its résumé. GU’s nonconference win over Missouri State in December remains its best win, which may come into play on Selection Monday.
Central Michigan – which merits a No. 5 seed according to RPI, but only a No. 8 by Creme’s metrics – likewise could move up by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Another caveat: Creme isn’t always right.
Two years ago, he had GU as a No. 12 seed. Instead, the Zags got shipped to Stanford as a No. 13 seed and fell to the Cardinal in the first round.
The bottom line is GU appears more likely than not to get home games, but there will be some scoreboard watching in Spokane this week.
Asked after Monday’s game whether she’ll be rooting for teams to lose this week, GU head coach Lisa Fortier said, “I prefer to root for teams to win … it’s just a bummer that it’s our of our control.
“But we’ll be watching.”
As dominant as GU has been in the WCC regular season under Fortier, the tournament has been a different story.
In the six seasons since Fortier took over the program from Kelly Graves, the Zags have won five regular-season titles but just two in Las Vegas.
On three of those occasions – 2015 and the past two seasons – the Zags brought powerhouse teams into the Orleans Arena but fell just short.
The reasons are well-worn: The Zags typically have an NCAA berth already sewn up, while everyone else needs to win the tournament to advance.
“It’s always hard coming into the tournament,” said senior guard Jessie Loera, who raised the trophy as a freshman and sophomore but came up empty the last two years.
GU also is burdened by the mixed blessing of the double bye, though the Zags certainly didn’t seem rusty in the first quarter against Portland.
Speaking of which, the Pilots made a point Fortier has been making for years: The WCC deserves a better reputation.
Eleventh in conference RPI and with only GU and BYU cracking the top 100 in RPI this year, the conference has been tougher than GU’s 17-1 conference record would indicate.
Case in point: Portland, which was picked to finish last in the preseason poll, gave the Zags everything they wanted and more this year.
“The conference is way better than advertised,” Fortier said.
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