Ticket punched: Gonzaga moves off the bubble by winning WCC title

The Dagger

Kansas winning 12 consecutive conference titles is the gold standard of streaks in the recent history of college basketball, especially among power conferences and perennial power teams.

Gonzaga has a few streaks of its own that are unmatched outside the major conferences and the Bulldogs kept them alive this week by winning the West Coast Conference tournament.

Gonzaga played in the WCC tournament championship game for the 19th consecutive time Tuesday night and managed to overcome a Saint Mary’s team it had lost to twice during the regular season. Beating the Gaels 85-75 propels Gonzaga into the NCAA tournament for an 18th straight season.



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 The streak was in doubt prior to the victory because the Bulldogs overall resume wasn’t quite as strong this season as it usually is, putting an at-large bid in doubt. A 61 RPI and a lack of great wins pushed the Bulldogs to the bubble.

The win allows the coach Mark Few and his players to relax for a few days. They won’t be waiting to Sunday on pins and needles wondering if they will have a spot in the tournament. The only mystery now is where they will be seeded and what team they will play.

And the team that does draw the Bulldogs won't be happy to see them. While it's true that Gonzaga has struggled at times this season, it's also true that it had to learn to play without a key player in the middle of the season but still proved tough to beat for ranked teams such as Texas A&M, Arizona and SMU.

Saint Mary’s might have seen its NCAA tournament hopes die at the hands of its rival. The Gaels rank 35th in the RPI but don’t have a win over a top-50 team, but they also don’t have a loss to a team below 128 in the RPI. The Gaels will be rooting against Cinderella stories as other tournaments progress around the country this week.

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Gonzaga was sensational in the first half offensively making almost 70 percent of its shots. Domantas Sabonis went 6-for-6 in the half but didn’t score from the field after halftime

But a key to Gonzaga’s success this season has been getting offense from other members of the starting lineup other than Sabonis and senior Kyle Wiltjer, who finished with 17 points Tuesday.

Guards Eric McClellan, Josh Perkins and senior guard Kyle Dranginis came through in the title game. McClellan scored 20 points, Perkins finished with 16 points and five assists and Dranginis added 13.

Sophomore Emmett Naar scored 25 points for the Gaels on 9-for-18 shooting. Saint Mary’s hit 12 3-pointers in the game but didn’t get stops on the defensive end often enough to overcome the Gonzaga lead.





Saint Mary's forward Calvin Hermanson, right, fouls Gonzaga guard Eric McClellan, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the West Coast Conference men's tournament championship Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Las Vegas. Saint Mary's guard Joe Rahon is on the left. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Saint Mary's forward Calvin Hermanson, right, fouls Gonzaga guard Eric McClellan, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the West Coast Conference men's tournament championship Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Las Vegas. Saint Mary's guard Joe Rahon is on the left. (AP Photo/John Locher)

 

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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