Big Wins For Ranked Teams Out WestBy Marc U.
As I’ve detailed in this column the last few weeks, college basketball on the West Coast is not nearly what it is in the nation’s heartland or the Atlantic corridor right now. Call it media bias or ‘East Coast bias’ or whatever you want to call it, but there’s some pretty accurate numbers to support the theory that the West Coast is lacking this year.
Be that as it may, there are still some very talented teams west of the Rockies and they all picked up solid wins yesterday with one in particular moving close to the #1 spot in the land.
#3 Gonzaga wrapped up the West Coast Conference Championship with an 81-50 trouncing of San Diego. The win more than likely moves the Bulldogs to the #2 spot in the polls with Miami’s loss yesterday to Wake Forest. Should that happen, it would be the highest-ever ranking for Gonzaga.
Kevin Pangos had 18 and Kelly Olynyk 14 points and nine rebounds for the Zags. I see only St. Mary’s as a potential threat to Gonzaga in the WCC tournament which shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as they’ve met four-straight years in the tourney final. I love the Zags for a #1 seed out West should they run the table from here on out. Other teams will have better strengths of schedule, but if the coaches and writers are going to put them at #2 then they obviously feel they deserve a one seed.
Another team with a crucial win yesterday was New Mexico. The 16th-ranked Lobos defeated their closest Mountain West competition in the 22nd-ranked Colorado State Rams 91-82 on the road in Fort Collins. UNM’s Kendall Williams scored 46 points with 18 of those coming after Williams had picked up his fourth foul. His Lobos were actually trailing at that point.
The win gives the Lobos a solid two-game lead over the Rams with four conference games left to play. At this point, I see the Lobos NCAA Tournament seeding being largely dictated by what they do in the conference tournament. An early exit could mean a two to three seed swing for New Mexico and likewise should they win it.
#12 Arizona defeated last-place Washington State 73-56 to stay even in the Pac-12 top spot. While the win looked relatively easy, the Wildcats gave up 37 points in the second half which has become a trend for Sean Miller’s team. Kevin Parrom had 19 points and seven rebounds for Arizona.
The team Arizona is even with out west is #23 Oregon. The Ducks moved to 22-6 on the season and 11-4 in the Pac-12 with a 77-71 win over Standford in Eugene. The win was crucial for Oregon following a horrendous performance in the previous game which was a loss to upstart California. Both Arizona and Oregon have three conference games remaining.
Games out West to Watch
San Diego State at #16 New Mexico – The Aztecs have hit the all-important 20-win mark but would love a signature road win to solidify an NCAA tournament bid. The Pit is no easy place to play however as the Lobos have just one home loss this season. I like the Lobos in a tight game.
Fresno State at #22 Colorado State – The Rams have just one loss at home and now they get a pretty bad Bulldogs team coming in to Fort Collins. CSU knows they need to win these games to keep any hope alive of catching the Lobos. Take the Rams in this one.
#3 Gonzaga at BYU – The Cougars are 20-9 and could use a solid upset to get an NCAA bid. While an argument could be made for complacency for the Zags now, don’t bet on it. Go with Gonzaga.
Oregon State at #23 Oregon – While you can never discount rivalry games, you can here because the Beavers aren’t that good. Go confidently with the Ducks.