What Does Gonzaga’s No. 1 Ranking Mean?

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Because college basketball rankings don't matter (imagine this college football fans, a tournament, that draws a huge national audience, where the teams play to determine the champion), the fact Gonzaga is now the number one team in the country is not an outrage. The Zags are unbeaten in the West Coast Conference, have rolled off 12 straight wins, and unlike everybody else in the NCAA, are consistently winning big. That being said, the WCC is having a down year, and pin pointing a really good win on Gonzaga's resume is difficult to do.

Since arriving in Spokane, Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been among the best in the country. Dan Monson spent two years with the Zags, went 52-17, and led a run to the Elite Eight in 1999. Monson left for Minnesota and since then Few has won nearly 400 games, while losing fewer than 100, and reaching the NCAA tournament every year. Four times the Zags have gone to the Sweet 16 under Few.

As great as Gonzaga has been this year, Jeff Sagarin ranks their schedule as the 99th most difficult in the country. Beating decent Big XII teams like Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma is good. However, the Zags have played only two teams in Sagarin's top 25 (both wins), while Indiana has faced nine such opponent (7-2), Duke has battled eight top teams (6-2), and Kansas has faced seven elite squads (5-2).

There have been seasons that the WCC has been among the best in the nation. This year is not one of them. St. Mary's, the second best team in the league, is way down. The Gaels again sport a splendid 26-5 record, but do not have the strength, size, or depth that they have in recent seasons when they won NCAA tournament games. The Gaels have just one win over a top 50 team. In fact, Gonzaga holds six of the eight conference victories over the top 50. By comparison, last year the WCC beat 16 top 50 opponents.

To their credit, Gonzaga has not only won this year, but blown out their opposition. Since a one point buzzer beating loss at Butler January 19, the Zags have played only two games decided by less than 10 points. They have beaten opponents by 20 or more six different times. Of 29 wins this year, 20 have been by 14 points or more.

The Zags are ranked number one, and with two fewer loses than any other team in the country perhaps they should be. However, Gonzaga has not reached the Sweet 16 in any of the last three seasons, and has gotten beyond the NCAA tournament's opening weekend only once since 2006. Few has never matched Monson's Elite Eight trip though this will be his best chance. Gonzaga has played very well, but their experience against the best of the best is lacking entering March.