Gonzaga gaining ground in polls, brackets projections, but more 'work to do'

Feb. 19—Gonzaga continues to move up, ever so slightly, in the eyes of AP Top 25 voters and NCAA Tournament bracket gurus.

The Bulldogs weren't in the tournament field in bracket projections two weeks ago after falling to Saint Mary's 64-62 at home. A four-game winning streak has the Zags showing up in an increasing number of brackets and nearing a return to the AP Top 25.

GU received 99 points in the latest AP poll, second among teams outside the top 25. Virginia picked up 103 points, 20 behind No. 25 BYU. The Zags had two points in the media poll two weeks ago.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi hasn't updated his bracket since Saturday, but he tweeted Monday that Gonzaga is second in his last four teams in the tournament, behind Butler and in front of Ole Miss and Providence. On Feb. 5, Gonzaga wasn't in Lunardi's top eight teams outside of the tournament field.

Lunardi's Saturday bracket has 11th-seeded Gonzaga facing Ole Miss in the First Four with the winner advancing to meet No. 6 Florida Atlantic in Memphis. The Field of 68's Monday bracket has 11 seeds Gonzaga and Ole Miss squaring off with the winner facing No. 6 BYU in the West Region.

John Gasaway, Lunardi's teammate at ESPN, has Gonzaga on a lengthy list of teams with "work to do," echoing the opinion of numerous national analysts.

"The win at Kentucky two games ago and beautiful numbers in the NET rankings and at KenPom can only do so much for the Bulldogs in the mock brackets," Gasaway wrote. "The fact that Mark Few's 20-6 group is projected merely as one of the last teams in the field is due to resume metrics needing to see more than the UK win alone — if not insisting on it. At the risk of looking ahead in the schedule, the Zags' last two games of the season at San Francisco (Feb. 29) and at Saint Mary's (March 2) hold the potential to tip this balance either way."

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has Gonzaga second among his first four out behind Cincinnati and ahead of Oregon and Seton Hall.

Mike DeCourcy of Fox Sports listed the Zags as a 10th seed facing Oklahoma in the South Region in his latest bracket Friday.

The Zags' average seed is 11.01 and they appear in 68 of 102 brackets on the Website.

Defending national champion UConn, which handled Gonzaga 76-63 in Seattle in December, is the top overall seed and joined on the one-seed line by Houston, Purdue and Arizona, according to Palm and Lunardi. The NCAA Selection Committee on Saturday had Purdue first — prior to losing to Ohio State on Sunday — and UConn second when it revealed its top 16 seeds.

Gonzaga is No. 23 in the NET rankings, compared to No. 27 two weeks ago. Saint Mary's is No. 15. The Zags are 20th and the Gaels 22nd in KenPom's ratings.

No. 1 UConn received all 62 first-place votes in Monday's AP poll. Purdue, which defeated Gonzaga 73-63 in November in Honolulu, dropped to third with Houston moving up one to No. 2.

Arizona is No. 4, followed by Tennessee, Iowa State, Marquette, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. Kentucky, which lost to GU 89-85 on Feb. 10, climbed up five spots to No. 17.

Saint Mary's, which leads the West Coast Conference by two games over Gonzaga and San Francisco, is No. 18. The Gaels entertain USF on Tuesday. San Diego State, an 84-74 winner over Gonzaga in late December, is No. 19.

The Zags nearly cracked the USA Today rankings. GU received 61 points, three behind No. 25 TCU. UConn was unanimous at No. 1 with all 32 first-place votes in the coaches' poll.

Gonzaga visits Portland (No. 314 NET) on Thursday before entertaining No. 106 Santa Clara on Saturday. The Broncos upset GU 77-76 at the Leavey Center in January.