The saying goes, "To be the man, you have to beat the man."
Saint Mary's did that last year when they won the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament championship by beating Gonzaga. This should have marked Saint Mary's as the team to beat in the conference.
One preseason later, nothing has changed.
Saint Mary's winning the conference tournament last season seems like such a distant memory. Oh, how losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech have clouded their accomplishment.
That along with Gonzaga's strong preseason has put them back in the familiar position of being the team to beat in the WCC. Maybe it's the built up reputation. Maybe it's because Saint Mary's needs to prove it can do it again.
In any case, Gonzaga remains the top dog when the Gaels and Bulldogs meet on Thursday.
Saint Mary's could take this as a sign of disrespect but it has just been tough to ignore what Gonzaga has done in the last two months.
So, who does this game mean more for? Doesn't it have to be Saint Mary's?
They are the team people have many questions about. They are the one with an RPI in the 90s. Remember, Saint Mary's has never reached consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Gonzaga will be the Gaels' best opponent all season and it isn't even close.
Various NCAA bracket projections have only one team from the WCC reaching the NCAA Tournament and that is Gonzaga.
Saint Mary's still has something to prove.
Gonzaga has had its battles and is at home for the first time in almost two weeks. Baylor, Kansas State, Santa Clara, Illinois. The case could be made Saint Mary's isn't at the level of any of these teams.
But if we have learned anything over the years, what a team is ranked or how a team is doing at that stage has little to do with how these teams will play each other.
It would be a major upset if Saint Mary's beat Gonzaga in Spokane and it would be a major bump for a Saint Mary's team still earning respect around the country.
Saint Mary's is the defending champ yet remain looking up at their heated rival Gonzaga. This game likely won't change this.
A win would do wonders for the reputation of Saint Mary's and possibly confirm them as the team to beat. A win for Gonzaga, especially a convincing one, could make last year's second place finish just a blimp on the radar rather than a trend.
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer