On the final Saturday of February, a day that featured several big-time top 15 matchups got a jolt in one of its final games of the day.
Well after most of the day’s contests had already concluded, Gonzaga saw its undefeated season come to an end. The Bulldogs were foiled on their home court by a team that has been a regular pain in the side on that court as BYU came back for a 79-71 win to drop the Bulldogs to 29-1 this year.
The Zags had an 18-2 lead early in the game and rebuilt the margin back to 12 points midway through the second half. Yet the Cougars Eric Mika’s brute force inside (29 points, 11 rebounds) and some three-point sniping by Nick Emery and others resulted in a big win in what’s otherwise been an atypically quiet season for Brigham Young.
If this surprised some, it shouldn’t have. Chalk this up as the third straight year BYU has won at Gonzaga’s McCarthey Center, with those games making up nearly 25% of the Bulldogs’ 13 losses in the building since it opened in 2004. If one is an accident and two is a coincidence, three is most definitely a trend here.
Almost immediately after, the debate began about just how damaging-or healthy-this loss was for the Zags. Others contemplated whether or not this loss will cost Gonzaga a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s the thing: in its bracket preview a couple weeks ago, NCAA selection committee chair Mark Hollis intimated that the top four teams-of which Gonzaga was one-were very solidly in those positions and had separated themselves from the field. Does one loss against a well-respected opponent change that?
It’s hard to imagine it would, or should. The Bulldogs certainly should still be a top seed in the tourney if it ended today. That could change, though, with another loss in the West Coast Conference Tournament. So while there’s no reason to consider one loss a reason for panic for the Zags, it definitely could be the only mulligan they get.
- Phil Kasiecki will have his Saturday notes reviewing all of the day’s biggest games.
- A number of teams clinched conference championships on Saturday. Villanova wrapped up the Big East‘s regular season crown, while Kansas clinched outright its 13th straight Big 12 title. Winthrop and UNC Asheville tied for first in the Big South, but the Eagles claimed the tiebreaker and will host the league tourney quarterfinals and semifinals. UNC Wilmington wrapped up the CAA, Wichita State and Illinois State tied for the MVC crown with the tourney’s top seed to be decided when the NCAA’s next RPI report comes out, and South Dakota completed a stunning run to the Summit League regular season championship, going from a preseason pick of ninth all the way to first. Also, Cal State Bakersfield wrapped up the WAC regular season and now gets a bye into the semifinals of their seven-team tournament.
- Valparaiso will attempt to lock up the outright Horizon League title and the top seed in the league tourney, but the Crusaders will have to work for it at Northern Kentucky, which has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire season.
- Middle Tennessee State goes for its 25th win in its trip to Alabama-Birmingham (1 p.m. Eastern, CBSSN).
- After its big buzzer-beater over Duke, Syracuse gets essentially a free shot with a trip to Louisville (2 p.m., CBS).
- St. Peter’s tries to wrap up second place in the MAAC when it’s at Canisius. If the Peacocks fall, Iona can tie them and steal the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney if it can knock off Monmouth.
- Cincinnati braces for a grinder at Central Florida (3 p.m., CBSSN).
- Coming off another big win over Villanova, Butler now faces reeling Xavier in what could be a trap game on the road (3:30 p.m., FS1).
- Desperation should be high both ways when Wisconsin goes to Michigan State (4 p.m., CBS). The Badgers need to turn around their recent struggles; the Spartans are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives.
- Houston is at Memphis in what should be an entertaining game between two likely NIT teams (5 p.m., CBSSN).
- Georgia Tech’s NCAA hopes are getting dimmer, but if they can finish off the sweep of Notre Dame with a road win they’ll instantly gain new life (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).
- Finally, if you really, really like rivalry games, Washington is at Washington State (8:30 p.m., ESPNU).
Relax and enjoy your Sunday.