Well, in last week’s Northwest 11, we gave the No. 1 nod to Leon Rice’s Boise State team, partly on the two-game skid that Gonzaga experienced at BYU and San Diego. Now, just a week from the awarding of the first, coveted Northwest 11 championship — a ceremony that will take place next to the $2.99 steak-and-eggs buffet at the El Dorado Casino in Las Vegas — we re-install the Zags at the top, on the strength of their dominating road trip to Pacific and rival St. Mary’s, which resulted in a pair of wins by a total of 45 points.
“Through all the trials and tribulations of this season, through the injuries and some tough losses and some doubters, we’ve never let our eyes off the ultimate prize — the Northwest 11 title,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few didn’t say regarding the latest rankings.
OK, enough foolishness. The resurgent Zags seemingly can now breathe a little easier regarding a 16th straight NCAA tournament appearance, something that they had jeopardized with the BYU-San Diego losses. A defeat at Pacific would have been a serious setback, and even a loss at St. Mary’s might have put pressure on Gonzaga to win the WCC title. Now the take here is that only a quarterfinal loss to the Pacific-Santa Clara winner would cause the Zags to sweat any, and I’m on the side of doubting even that would sabotage another NCAA trip.
Funny thing about the NCAA bubble. It’s invariably more accommodating than it might have looked a couple or three weeks before Selection Sunday. In other words, the standards set in mid- or late-February for any given team seem to have some elasticity.
The bubble is forgiving — to a point.
A final thought on Gonzaga and the NCAA tournament. Wichita State looks all but certain to be a No. 1 seed. Gonzaga is trending toward a spot on the 8-9 lines. The basketball committee avoids rematches of games during the season, but to my knowledge, doesn’t have any such restriction on last year. You don’t suppose the Zags and Shockers could end up in the tournament at the same site, with each team a victory away from a rematch of last year’s surprise in Salt Lake City?
1. Gonzaga (25-6) . . . After two wins over St. Mary’s by 50 total, may get Gaels in WCC semis
2. Boise State (19-10) . . . Broncos finish with Nevada and Air Force, so 21 wins possible
3. Oregon (20-8) . . . Still needs a win with some oomph, and ‘Zona visits Saturday
4. Washington (16-13) . . . 10-8 league finish would be an accomplishment
5. Oregon State (15-13) . . . Has to sweep ‘Zonas for first .500 league mark since 1993
6. Portland (15-15) . . . No. 7-seeded Pilots get Loyola Marymount in WCC opener
7. Washington State (9-19) . . . Did we mention Cougars can’t seem to shoot?
8. Portland State (14-13) . . . Knotted with EWU, Sac State for last Big Sky tourney spot
9. Seattle U. (13-14) . . . Umipig’s career-high 36 thwarted Idaho on senior night
10. Eastern Washington (14-15) . . . 293rd nationally in scoring defense at 75.1
11. Idaho (12-17) . . . Can a guy (Madison) on a 12-17 team win WAC player of year?