SPOKANE, Wash. — Despite Gonzaga’s disappointing and tough loss to rival Saint Mary’s during the WCC Tournament championship on Tuesday night, some sports analysts still have faith in the Bulldogs.
Saint Mary’s ended the nation’s longest winning streak and Gonzaga’s six year reign as WCC Tournament champions with a 60-47 victory. The Gaels all but shut down the No. 1 team in the nation by slowing the game and forcing Gonzaga to grind out possessions instead of playing fast and free.
The win marked Saint Mary’s first against a No. 1 team.
Some people think the loss could end Gonzaga’s bid for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But other sports analysts do not believe this is the case.
ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi supported the Zags after the game in a tweet. He wrote, “Don’t overreact to a single loss by clearly one of the country’s four best teams. If Zags had lost this game a month ago, the conversation wouldn’t exist.”
A Twitter user also asked Lunardi if the loss would drop the team down to a No. 2 seed. Lunardi replied, “No way.”
Lunardi is predicting that the Zags will either face Farleigh Dickinson or Prairie View A&M in their first game of the NCAA Tournament.
ESPN sports analyst and commentator Jay Bilas also voiced support for the Zags in his most recent college basketball rankings. The story was published at midnight on Wednesday.
“Gonzaga is the best offensive team in the nation. The Zags were good enough to win it all without the big, sweet-shooting Frenchman Tillie. With him, the Zags are significantly better. No matter what, this is a No. 1 seed,” Bilas wrote.
Bilas ranked Gonzaga No. 2 out of 68 teams.
On Twitter, Bilas said, “One game, played poorly. Gonzaga will be a No. 1 seed. It’s a lock. And, it should be.”
There were others who were not so certain. T.J. Walker, who hosts a radio sports show in Kentucky, said Gonzaga should not snag a No. 1 seed.
“Houston is much more deserving of a one seed that Gonzaga. Absolutely wild that the Zags could end up as a one with THIS resume,” he said on Twitter.
Earlier this week, ESPN commentator Sean Farnham expressed his love for Spokane – and picked Gonzaga to win it all during the Big Dance.
"I think one of the things you think about with this Gonzaga team and why they are not just number one by ranking but actually if you’re in a confidence pool of who’s going to win a national championship, they’d be the favorite, is based on their level of efficiency you see at both ends of the floor. It’s the greatest equalizer," he told KREM sports director Brenna Greene on Monday. "Per 100 possessions, how do you play? Their number one on offense and number six on defense. That’s dominating."
"Then when you look at the combination of experience. An experienced point guard that’s played for a national championship. An experienced coach who’s led this team every year to an NCAA Tournament and to a national championship in 2017. Then couple that with NBA first rounders and the best frontcourt in the country. To me that’s what stands out more than anything about this team," he continued.
For live updates during the NCAA Tournament, follow KREM Sports Director Brenna Greene on Twitter.
What you should know about Selection Sunday
The Selection Sunday show for the Gonzaga men will air on KREM 2 at 3 p.m. At that time, fans will learn Gonzaga’s seed in the NCAA Tournament and when the team will first play.
On Monday, the Gonzaga women will learn their fate. That special airs at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
Sixty-eight teams are selected for the NCAA tournament. Thirty-two of those teams get in automatically by winning their conference tournaments, no matter what their regular season record is. The other 36 spots are at-large bids that are selected by a committee weighing things like strength of schedule, road wins, etc. So, if a top-ranked team like Duke loses in their conference tournament, they're still going to get into the NCAA Tournament.
Eight teams that will be named Sunday will have to play in one of the "First Four" games on Tuesday and Wednesday of the opening week just to make it into the more traditional field of 64.
The final 64 are placed in four regions of 16 teams each, more commonly known as the "bracket." The regions are separated geographically. The lowest seeds in each region are pitted against the highest seeds (No. 16 vs. No. 1; No. 15 vs. No. 2; and so on).
A team must win its first four games to reach the Final Four and all six to win the championship.
You can register to play KREM's Northern Quest Resort and Casino March Bracket Challenge online.
The Associated Press and TEGNA Staff contributed to this report.