WCC Dominance. #11 Gonzaga 80, St. Mary’s 61. It was billed the Game of the Year on the west coast (keep the snickering to a minimum), but like so many of the others before it, the end result was the same with Gonzaga knocking off its top rival St. Mary’s tonight. The Zags used a devastating early second-half 16-3 run to break a tight game wide open, and the sense for those of us watching at home was one of vague familiarity. Elias Harris followed up his dunking exhibition from a month ago with a 19/4 night before ultimately fouling out, and Matt Bouldin had 18/5/4 assts in yet another WCC statement win for Gonzaga. Just as in the last game in Moraga, the Zags scorched the nets with a 54% shooting night (57% last month), calling into question the ability of the SMC defenders to stay in front of the more athletic Zags. With the win, GU effectively opens up a two-game lead over its closest competitor using the tiebreaker, and they’re now all but assured to get their tenth straight WCC regular season title in the next few weeks of action. SMC at 21-4 (8-2) is an interesting case for the NCAA Tournament committee right now. They have four ‘quality’ losses (Vanderbilt, USC, Gonzaga twice), but their only really good win was one over Utah State in Logan in December. Their RPI is in the mid-40s, and the last four regular season games probably aren’t going to change that position much. In our eyes the Gaels will need to win all four games to go to 25-4 and have another nice run in the WCC Tournament to ensure a bid this year.
Speaking of Dominance. #15 Butler 68, Youngstown State 57. With this win tonight, Butler’s fourteenth in a row, the Bulldogs clinched their fourth consecutive Horizon League regular season title with three games left in the race. Gordon Hayward was awesome tonight, going for 22/17 in a game that was closer for much of the contest than the final score indicated. Yet, Butler continued to show why they’re a cut above the rest of this league, overcoming an early eight-point deficit to take control in the second half and move to 15-0 in the conference. We’re still a week out from the BracketBuster matchups, but if Butler can win its next two and Siena do likewise, then we’ll have the two teams with the longest current winning streaks in America facing each other in that game.
A Little Upsetting.
- Michigan 71, Minnesota 63. The wheels appear to be coming off of Tubby Smith’s ride, as the Al Nolen/Royce White/Trevor Mbakwe sagas appear to be taking their toll on his program in the form of an unexpected loss to a team that came into Minneapolis having dropped five of six with one road win all season (Penn State). The Gopher defense gave up 27/7 to DeShawn Sims and 20/4/7 assts to Manny Harris, which was enough to hold off Minnesota tonight.
- St. John’s 74, Louisville 55. Speaking of wheels coming off, on the same day that rumors about Rick Pitino’s interest/non-interest in the Nets job came out, his team laid a gigantic egg in the middle of Madison Square Garden — seriously, you could make a Carnegie Deli-sized sandwich out of this egg. A second-half 27-5 spurt embarrassed his Cardinals to the point where we wonder if he hasn’t already mentally checked out of the Big East. Louisville is rewarded with a trip to Syracuse on Sunday for their troubles.