The West Coast Conference basketball tournament opens in Las Vegas on Wednesday when the Portland Pilots take on the Loyola-Marymount Lions. No matter who rises from the middle of the bracket, they will, in all likelihood, find a rock star at the top. The Gonzaga Bulldogs, for the first time in school history, are the number one ranked basketball team in all the land. Their accomplishment was announced on Monday.
The Bulldogs achieved their lofty perch after defeating Portland 81-52 on Saturday. Receiving 51 out of a possible 64 first place votes Gonzaga easily supplanted Indiana at the top spot. Twice during the regular season the Hoosiers were ranked number one only to subsequently lose, most recently at Minnesota.
Gonzaga won its 12th WCC men's regular season title in the last 13 years, becoming the first West Coast Conference team to post a perfect 16-0 conference mark. Next up for Gonzaga is negotiation of the conference tourney. That would secure a spot on the top line of the NCAA Tournament to follow.
The Bulldogs and the second seed St Mary's Gaels earn byes into the conference semifinals on Saturday evening. BYU, the third seed, and number four Santa Clara each earn a bye to the quarterfinals and will take the floor on Friday night. San Francisco and San Diego finished with identical conference marks. The Dons have earned the five seed due to the RPI tiebreaker, making San Diego the six. Pepperdine, Portland, and Loyola Marymount wrap up the bottom three spots in the bracket respectively.
Bulldogs head coach Mark Few, while aware that there was a massive celebration on Gonzaga's Spokane campus over the number one ranking, kept his eyes focused on the future. "We still have a lot more to accomplish starting this weekend in Las Vegas and moving forward to the NCAA tournament," said Few. "We're looking forward to the rest of the season and making it last as long as we can."