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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 29, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Zags’ run of conference titles is in big jeopardy

While the Pac-12 basketball race continues to be a jumble, with Washington having nosed ahead following a big weekend in Arizona (pending rivalry games later Sunday involving Cal and Oregon), the West Coast Conference looks more and more like Saint Mary’s domain.

The Gaels had have a gonzo January, rushing out to a 10-0 record in the WCC and having established themselves as the team to beat in the race. It’s been awhile since anybody could say that.

It isn’t so much what Gonzaga (17-3, 7-1) hasn’t done as what Saint Mary’s has. The Zags have dropped a single league game — a blowout loss at Saint Mary’s Jan. 12 — so they’re hardly out of the picture. Remember, there was a point a year ago when the Gaels actually had a three-game lead in the league over Gonzaga, but at the wire, the Zags had chased down SMC and tied it for the league title.

That was Gonzaga’s 11th straight WCC tied or won outright, edging the Zags toward UCLA’s all-time record for such things (1967-79).

But this year is its own challenge. Each time it appears the Gaels have a logical spot to suffer a setback, they come through famously. They just got done dispatching Loyola Marymount on the road Thursday night, and then Brigham Young — in front of 22,700 BYU loyalists — Saturday night, 80-66. They’ve scored 98 and 80 against BYU, and they’re simply cutting a swath right now, with a 21-3 record and — ostensibly, at least — the bulk of the heavy lifting behind them in the WCC. The exception there is one more game at Gonzaga Feb. 9.

That looms as a must for the Zags, if they’re going to continue the conference-championship streak, and the same can almost be said for a date this week at BYU Thursday night.

At least Brigham Young doesn’t have a guy named Jimmer on the roster any longer.

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