Ratto: Gaels KO Zags, WCC king still not dead

January 28, 2011, 5:23 pm
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Mickey McConnells one-hand runner Thursday night seems to have convinced the doubtful that Saint Marys is the new Gonzaga -- that sitting comfortably on the throne requires dancing on the dead kings grave.

Well, not so fast there.

For the first time in about forever, the Bay Area owns the top of the West Coast Conference, and that means that Gonzaga is for the first time in about forever a middle-of-the-pack team.

SHELL: Shakeup in the WCC

The problem with that theory as it pertains to March, however, is that the WCCs tournament format so loads the dice for the top two teams that the Zags can perhaps live with being second and take their chances in a potential title game matchup with the Gaels in Las Vegas.

The format, which a few other leagues have taken up, puts the bottom four teams on Day One, fifth vs. eighth and sixth vs. seventh. Day Two, the winners face the third- and fourth-place teams, Day Three, the winners of Day two face the No. 1 and 2 teams, and the survivors play for the title in Day Four.

RELATED: Gaels drop Gonzaga at the buzzer 73-71 Boxscore
In short, finishing second is almost as good as finishing first, and finishing third is a significantly greater handicap. And thinking Gonzaga cant finish second is a dangerous bet to make even now.

Basically, the Zags second-half schedule has USF and Santa Clara at home, and four of their final five road games are against the leagues lower half. Only the Feb. 24 game at Moraga can be considered a difficult roadie.

Not only that, their three consecutive losses have come in a convincing loss at Santa Clara, an overtime loss to USF and the McConnell runner. Their worst loss was at Washington State Dec. 8, followed by the loss at Santa Clara. The others have come either to ranked teams or required overtime (USF).

In other words, it isnt like the Zags are actually dead and buried yet. They remain a militantly tough out.

RELATED: WCC standings statistics

And you all know the first law of regicide: To be the king, you have to kill the king. Frankly, we suspect this argument will not be settled before March 7, the date of the WCC tournament final. And were still not convinced that one of the two left standing wont be Gonzaga.

King-killing is like that, you know. Not nearly as easy as you think.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area.