Zags to MWC?

Updated on March 2, 2018 in Other
8 on March 1, 2018

“Exploratory” discussions, but really possible?

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/mountain-west-conference-eyeing-gonzaga-as-potential-expansion-school/

Can’t image BYU would be happy if they didn’t get an invite as well.

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0 on March 1, 2018

Wow, this would be a game changer for the WCC.  Gonzaga fits the MWC from a basketball perspective right now, but can’t see how the school/program fits with the big public programs in that league.  It would be disappointing to lose them.  The WCC clearly is what it is, you are never going to see member schools building and selling out 10k plus arenas (aside from BYU), but there is something to be said for the tradition.  Also, the league seems to be a good fit for all of the other league sports as well.  

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0 on March 1, 2018

As a current resident of Spokane (15+ yrs) and certifiable hoops addict I obviously pay a lot of attention to GU hoops. And you can’t really avoid it living here…they are effectively Spokane’s pro team with exposure and visibility in Spokane similar or greater to Warriors, Niners, Giants in the Bay Area.

The MWC news was reported in local media here yesterday. Many GU hoops would love it as they think of the WCC as an anchor. That said, the MWC is still not considered one of the Power 6 conferences so in my opinion it would only be a baby step forward for GU hoops. And fans would still get bent out of shape when they don’t get the respect or exposure of the blue bloods.

In the short term it would obviously be a blow to the WCC’s stature in hoops and I think BYU would try to join them and return to the MWC (they shouldn’t have left to begin with). Personally I wouldn’t mind GU departing, they’ve become the 800lb gorilla of the conference with a huge recruiting advantage over everyone not named SMC or BYU. They have tremendous stability, Few is wise enough to realize the grass isn’t greener elsewhere as he didn’t pursue past opportunities at Indiana, Arizona and Oregon and assistant coaching staff has very little turnover with the same 3 assistants for at least the past 5 years and supposedly Asst Tommy Lloyd is more or less promised the HC gig if Few retires or leaves. Frankly i find talk of SCU (as well as most of the rest of the WCC) trying to become the next GU to be unrealistic and naive, apparently unaware of the unique set of circumstances that led to their rise (a discussion for another day) that can’t be easily replicated (in short simply ‘investing’ and throwing a bunch of money into the program only gets you so far).
A GU departure ( and likely BYU w/ them) makes it much more possible for a program like SCU, USF or USD to have a solid 22+ win season and maybe run the table in the WCC tourney for the NCAA outibid. And provides some ‘space’ for 1 or 2 programs to step forward and either challenge SMC or play close 2nd fiddle 2 them. Today there’s 3 tiers in the league: 1) GU; 2) SMC and BYU; 3) everyone else…..really hard for someone else to emerge as a consistent challenger (not talking about an isolated 1 or 2 yrs of success).

Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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3 on March 2, 2018

Seems like it would be a big step up for the Mountain West and a side-step at best for the Zags. The Zags have reached the pinnacle of the college basketball world; switching to the MWC won’t help them get respect as long as they remain a small, Jesuit school in Spokane. Switching conferences introduces a ton of variables that could, however, alter the program for the worse. There’s nothing really broken for them. What would the MWC fix? Unless they’re reallllllly itching to play basketball in Laramie. (Now that I think about it, the MWC would probably be much better for Few’s fly-fishing hobby)

on March 2, 2018

Bingo! Agreed. The formula is working as-is. Why mess with it?

Imagine if Monson had stayed at GU…Few would’ve probably been hired by another WCC school…would he have had as much success at, say, Portland or Pepp? Or did Monson leave him with such a good foundation that Few could only have succeeded like he has at GU? Speculative, yes, but fun speculation.

on March 2, 2018

Another thing is that the Mountain West isn’t the Promised Land: in years of realignment (every other year nowadays) the Pac12 or Big 12 will look to poach the best MWC program. And any of the MWC will jump immediately at the invite. BYU leaves the Zags high and dry in a heartbeat for the Big 12. UNLV, UNR, SDSU, or Colorado State will go Pac12 in a second if they’re ever wanted. And you know that college football is inevitably going to set off another huge realignment war in the near-future. The Zags have nowhere to go – without football, those opportunities are foreclosed. So they can hang with similar institutions trying to improve their programs knowing that (BYU aside) realignment will never affect them, or they can go to another middling league with ever so slightly better teams (San Jose State, anyone?), worse media markets, and no similar institutions that will implode the second that a power conference athletic director says “ESPN.”

on March 2, 2018

Not just the MWC…supposedly AAC (Wichita St. joined this year) and Big East have had exploratory talks w/ GU in recent years.
One problem/challenge w/ Big East is travel and fit for other GU sports besides basketball.

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0 on March 2, 2018

It’s nice to have a team like Gonzaga in the WCC as it at least makes the league a little relevant.  Then again, if they were to go it would give other schools a chance at the automatic bid (although it would most certainly relegate the league to a one bid league).

Few and GU are the kings of the WCC… they get tons of national exposure, great recruits, sell out all home and many away games, and a ticket to the NCAA tourney every year.  I can understand why it might be tempting to think about leaving  the WCC, but I just don’t see a huge benefit with the Mountain West.  Pac-12 sure, but Mountain West, I’d take a flyer.  Few and GU like being king.  I’d expect they will stay…BYU, on the other hand I expect will be switching leagues in the next year or two.

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0 on March 2, 2018

The Mountain West is projected to be a 1-bid league this year… and it was last year. Now, if BYU and GU both go, then I think its much clearer, the MWC would be better than the WCC. 

GU as an institution may fit better in the WCC, but GU’s local fan base, which is a big part of their support, may be better aligned with Ogden, Fort Collins, Reno, Colorado Springs, etc than LA, San Francisco, Oakland, etc. 

I can’t see them going through the fuss to move to a league that is only slightly better than the WCC, if it’s better at all in its current state. GU reached the national title game last year… I don’t think any MWC team has ever done that (UNLV was in the Big West when they won the title). 

If they had a chance to go to the Pac-12 (which will never, ever happen) as a basketball team, you do it heartbeat. If they could go to the Big East, you do it in a heartbeat. The MWC? A collection of the also-ran public Universities of the west… A worse institutional fit for a slightly better basketball fit? It may be easy to rationalize for a GU fan from Eastern Washington, but I think that for the institution itself, it may be harder to justify.

Particularly when they may well not have the basketball success at the same level. The MWC has been down, but UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, SDSU, Boise, if even a few start clicking at the same time, would create a very challenging league. At some level that may be what they want, but their ability to consistently make the tournament out of the WCC has put them where they are. MWC teams use every possible stratagem to win basketball games- JuCo players, marginal academic players, high major transfers, etc. The WCC, particularly at the bottom, has largely laid down for long stretches. They complain about it, but they’ve racked up massive amounts of wins against the WCC dregs. Games @New Mexico, @Nevada, @SDSU, @UNLV aren’t going to be Gertsen or Firestone cake walks. Throw GU 3 or 4 extra league losses a year, and their seeds will largely be double digits, right? 

There’s no way to project if they would have the same level of success or not, and that would likely be the determinant of whether it was a good move or bad. Even this post is bipolar as to the merit of the MWC- it’s not great now, but has a higher ceiling. 

The MWC has a much worse TV deal than the WCC, by some margin. Here, in the Mountain Time Zone, deep in MWC territory, I get most SCU games or other WCC games on the channel that plays the Rockies. There are three MWC teams within 2 hours (CSU, Air Force, and Wyoming) and I’ve, no exaggeration, never seen one of their games on TV. Unlike a P6 move, I don’t think the additional revenue from a MWC move clearly justifies the move, and their additional expenses for every other sport may be higher.

This seems more like leverage for GU over the WCC. 

Now, if they did go, it certainly would make the path for the other WCC teams to the dance (ostensibly by winning the tourney) a little easier- SMC would remain (and could never leave, I would seriously think) but they’ve never had Zag infallibility. Losing their foil would certainly take some wind from SMC’s sails… How many of their NCAA tournament bids over the past 15 years go away if you take out a win or two against GU. They’d have to upgrade their non-conf substantially, something they’ve never been apt to do. 

In the long run, losing GU and BYU would be a serious blow to the WCC’s chances of creating and cementing themselves as the Big East of the West… There are no viable replacements that adding would replace what GU and BYU would subtract by leaving. 

It’s been paradoxical for 20 years. GU winning all the time has necessarily meant that other WCC teams cannot win the WCC or the WCC tournament, sapping institutional wherewithal, fan interest, and recruiting. How many fans are at a GU game if their last tournament trip was 1996, like us? GU has won the lions share of accolades and post-season appearances, skyrocketing them from a nobody to a near blue-blood, then turns around to the shambles of 7 other programs and says, “why can’t you be more like us?”. Only one team can win the league. 

If the WCC could regularly place 3-4 teams in the dance, would be a wonderful basketball league. Realistically that would be GU nearly always, BYU and SMC frequently, and number 4 being SCU, USF, USD every couple of years, (I can’t even in my wildest fantasies see Portland ever being good, or LMU or Pepp unless they upgrade their facilities)… It would necessitate more parity, including *gasp* GU not winning the league every single year, for that scenario to happen.

Competitiveness seems to be raising (if only by the eyeball test), but things like Lamont Smith’s demise, high-major pedigree Herb Sendek chucking up 20 losses in year two, Pacific and Portland looking rudderless, Pepp (apparently) scraping their new gym, SMC massively scaled back their own plans too. There are certainly reasons for GU to move elsewhere, but I think the same rationale that traded them into the WCC for Nevada in 1979 holds true- this is where their school best fits in the West, for better (basketball ascendancy and WCC hegemony for two decades) and for worse (having to play lowly LMU and Pepperdine). 

Sorry for the ramble… these are my (uncollected) thoughts 

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