SPOKANE, Wash. – It looks like Gonzaga is staying in the West Coast Conference after all.
KREM 2 has confirmed that Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth has made his decision and the Bulldogs will not leave the WCC, despite reports about the program looking elsewhere.
1. Scheduling changes
As per the conference changes announced last week, the scheduling is much more fortuitous for the Zags. Instead of playing 18 conference games, the Zags will now only play 16, meaning that's two less games against the bottom-feeders of the conference. This opens the possibility of adding more tough matchups against teams across the country. On top of that, starting in 2019-2020, all WCC programs will have to play in multi-team events (i.e. Maui Invitational), which should help the conference's overall RPI.
2. WCC Tournament
The top two teams in the regular season will now advance straight to the conference semifinals. So, not only is Gonzaga trying to avoid bottom-feeders in conference, their road to the NCAA tournament becomes a bit cleaner as the Zags would only need to win two games to earn the automatic berth. Very rarely is Gonzaga not No. 1 or No. 2 in the conference standings.
To be completely honest, this is still a question mark, but I know conference allocation of money was a very important topic for the university as Gonzaga has been, essentially, funding the conference for decades as money is evenly split within teams. Don't be surprised to hear some changes in how the funds are allocated to programs making the NCAA tournament in the future. No changes in this department have been announced yet.
I Know You Wanted to Leave the WCC, But...
I get it Gonzaga fans--you are bored during the conference schedule (outside of St. Mary's and maybe BYU), but let's be honest:
Is the Mountain West that much better than the WCC?
It certainly is a better conference and Gonzaga would play tougher games, but would it really make life better for the Bulldogs?
If you moved Gonzaga to the Mountain West tomorrow, Gonzaga is still the best team in conference and will be for the foreseeable future. The only difference is the Bulldogs are playing tougher mid-tier games against teams who probably won't make the NCAA tournament, anyway. I don't want to make it seem like Mark Few and company don't want to face tougher competition because look at the non-conference schedule, but is the risk worth the reward?
Gonzaga has been ranked No. 1 in the WCC, has earned a No. 1 seed in the WCC and made it to the National Championship as a WCC team. The margin for error is slim year-to-year, but the Zags can do what they want to do in the West Coast Conference.
The Bulldogs have made 20 straight NCAA appearances. That is a huge selling point for the program. Don't take that streak for granted because you want to play New Mexico or Utah State instead of LMU or Portland.
I do agree that moving to the Mountain West would reinvigorate a stale fan base. It gets pretty boring beating up on the same teams in January and February. Moving to the Mountain West would be fun for a handful of years, but over time, there will be bottom-feeder's again and the fan base will get numb to certain matchups again.
In the end, Gonzaga can revisit a switch next year. They are not stuck in the WCC. Mike Roth and Mark Few will always do what's best for Gonzaga and the fans probably just need to trust them on this move.