Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Gonzaga Will Make the Tournament

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5 Reasons Gonzaga Will Make NCAA Tournament

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Jim Brown - USA TODAY Sports

With February now half over, teams are looking to bolster their resumes in preparation for the NCAA Tournament this March. Not every team will make it in and many will spend Selection Sunday on pins and needles as they sit on the bubble waiting to see whether or not they’ll be dancing this postseason. For some, the day will end in disappointment but the Gonzaga Bulldogs should have no reason to worry.

While this season has not gone nearly as well as last season’s dominant run through the regular season that earned the Zags a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs have a strong case to be included once again in the tournament field. They currently sit at 22-4 overall and 12-1 in West Coast Conference play. They just fell out of the Top 25 in the AP poll last week (though they’re primed to jump back in next week) and rank No. 24 in the USA TODAY poll.

The team is much different than the one they took into last year’s tournament. Last year, it was a dominant front court with Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris leading the way. This season, they’ve had to rely on the sharp-shooting skills of Kevin Pangos to lead the way. They have produced some uneven effort levels as the season has gone on, but the team appears to be getting healthy at just the right time heading into the home stretch of the regular season.

So without further ado, here are five reasons that Gonzaga should be confident that they’ll make the tournament this March.

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5. Top 30 team all season long

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James Snook - USA TODAY Sports

While the Zags have not been a lock in the top-25 this season, they have never been far out of the rankings. In all likelihood, they’ve been ranked as one of the top 30 teams in college basketball all year long. With 36 at-large bids available for the tournament to teams that don’t win their conference tournament, the selection committee has to find room in the field for one of the top 30 teams in all of college basketball this season.

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4. Strong RPI

przemek karnowski
James Snook - USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga rates very well in RPI, one of the tools used by the NCAA Selection Committee to evaluate teams for the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Zags rank No. 21 in the country in RPI, ahead of teams like the Texas Longhorns (22), Pitt Panthers (27), and Louisville Cardinals (32) just to name a few. They’ve also competed well against top competition, compiling an 8-3 record against the RPI top 100 this season. That strong RPI will help push Gonzaga to the top of the list when the selection committee starts choosing at-large bids.

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3. Quality losses

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Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports

Two of Gonzaga’s four losses this season have come against teams with quality tournament resumes of their own. On December 21, the Zags went toe-to-toe with a strong Kansas State Wildcats club and came up short, losing 72-62. On February 8, they went on the road to face the Memphis Tigers and lost in the closing minutes 60-54. Playing both teams tough shows that the Zags have the mettle to hang with tournament-level teams.

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2. Consistent tournament team

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Ed Szczepanski - USA TODAY Sports

In 16 tournament appearances for Gonzaga (all since 1995), they’ve averaged just over a win per appearance, making them more than just a flash in the pan mid-major. They have a strong resume once they make it into the Big Dance and can rely on the selection committee recognizing that if they have to split hairs between Gonzaga and another bubble team.

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1. Likely to win WCC Tournament

kevin pangos
Andrew Fielding - USA TODAY Sports

All this bubble watch talk, however, might be moot as the Zags look like a heavy favorite to roll through the WCC Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Bulldogs are currently three games up on the pack in the WCC conference standings and have looked strong against their conference competition. Their lone loss against the Portland Pilots came on the road in a game that the Zags looked terribly flat and disinterested. That shouldn’t be an issue when the WCC Tournament is on the line, allowing Gonzaga to display their superiority over the rest of the WCC field.

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