With 13:40 left in the second half of Monday’s WCC title game between Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in Las Vegas and Gonzaga leading by 17 points, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk took a bounce pass from David Stockton and thunderously threw down a dunk that sent a message to the college basketball nation–this Gonzaga team is a legitimate No. 1 seed and deserving of their No. 1 ranking for the second consecutive week in both major college basketball polls.
The Bulldogs beat pesky St. Mary’s 65-51 to win the WCC tournament in addition to the regular season title (Gonzaga went undefeated in the WCC regular season), and Olynyk had 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Elias Harris had 19 points for Gonzaga. The two give the Bulldogs a potent one-two punch on the front line, and the key for them will be to stay out of foul trouble in the tournament. Because the WCC tournament concluded on Monday, Gonzaga will be better rested than the other teams that will play in conference tournament games this weekend.
Gonzaga (31-2) has won 14 straight games, obtained the school’s first No. 1 ranking in history, recorded their first 30-win season, and became the first team from the West Coast Conference since San Francisco in 1977, a team Bill Cartwright led, to become the top-ranked team in the country.
With the victory over St. Mary’s, Gonzaga will not only be the No. 1 ranked team in the last polls before the tournament, but will also secure a No. 1 seed–and perhaps the No. 1 overall seed in the whole tournament–in one of the four regionals.
Expectations will be different for Gonzaga going into this year’s tournament. In past seasons, Gonzaga was the underdog that often punched up and posed a threat to the top-seeded teams from the major conferences.
They were hunters in seasons past, but that will not be the case this year. As the top-ranked team in the country, they will now be the hunted, all eyes will be on them, and expectations will be greater than ever for the small Jesuit school.