Gonzaga Moves to No. 1
Charles E. Sutton | 3/7/2013, 12:32 p.m.
It's an unusual sports occurrence when doing so little can yield so much. Gonzaga moved to No. 1 in the country on Monday, when all they've done is dominate a conference full of weak competition. While this season has featured good power conference teams pounding on each other, Gonzaga has crept up the rankings by pushing around the likes of Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount.
In spite of having a strength of schedule of 93, the worst of any team in last week's top 20, Gonzaga is wearing the label of No. 1. This is how the polls operate. Even if you beat up on lesser opponents, you inch up by default, particularly this season.
A large part of the reason Gonzaga is No. 1 is simply because they are named Gonzaga. If any other team in the awful West Coast Conference had the same resume, I really doubt that they would be ranked No. 1.
A year ago this time, entering its conference tournament, No. 9 Murray State was 28-1 with a 2-0 record against ranked opponents. Today, Gonzaga has both an inferior overall record (29-2) and against ranked opponents (1-2). Someone has some explaining to do.
Don't make light of the Murray State comparison. Last season, it beat 16th ranked St. Mary's by 14 points. This season, Gonzaga has two wins over an inferior version of the unranked Gaels by 17 and five points. Incidentally, St. Mary's is undefeated against the rest of the weak WCC.
Quite frankly, there are a few teams that come to mind right away that should be ranked ahead of Gonzaga. While Gonzaga has not competed against a top-10 opponent, Indiana and Duke have played four top-10s each and won every time. Georgetown has won 11 consecutive games in the tough Big East. They too, should be ranked ahead of Gonzaga. Some could even make an argument for St. Louis, which has won 11 straight in the difficult Atlantic 10.
Gonzaga got its opportunity to play an A-10 team on January 19 when it went on the road to face Butler. But, once the dust settled, Butler came out on top 64-63, despite the absence of its best player, Rotnei Clarke. Following the game Butler (16-2) was ranked 9th and Gonzaga was ranked 10th. Since then, Butler has gone 6-5 in the A-10, while Gonzaga has gone 12-0 in the WCC.
If the two teams switched conferences, I'd imagine Butler would be ranked higher than Gonzaga today.