Hello conference play, my old friend

click to enlarge A Gonzaga cheerleader performs at a game. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
A Gonzaga cheerleader performs at a game.

True college basketball fans are familiar with CBS Sport’s Jon Rothstein and his patent-worthy, memetic catch phrase “THIS IS MARCH” as soon as madness happens during the season end NCAA tournament. Just as obvious to Gonzaga fans is the factoid that “THIS IS CONFERENCE PLAY.”

The Zags played only one game last week, facing off against Santa Clara on the road. They were tasked with covering a betting line of 21.5 points, and thankful degenerates were blessed with that margin… almost twice over. The over/under (151) was not met, but it’s hard to blame Gonzaga and their 98 points.

click to enlarge Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura dribbles the ball. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura dribbles the ball.

The Broncos scored 39 whole points off of 27 percent field goal shooting (Gonzaga shot 37 percent from the three point line) and had a total of 13 made baskets. Gonzaga could have stopped playing offense after Rui Hachimura tipped in a second chance bucket at the 4:47 mark of the first half. Spectators watching from the Leavey Center and around TVs were blessed to nearly 25 minutes of inconsequential basketball when all was said and done.

With a rare weekend off, the disparity between the Zags and the rest of the participation-trophy-seeking segment of the WCC loomed large. The win was Gonzaga’s 27th straight road conference win, a Division I record. But is that necessarily a record worth having?

Throughout the top flight’s program reign of continuous tournament appearances, number one rankings and seeds, doubters and haters always turned to the weak conference opponents as a case for the program’s illegitimacy.

There is no doubt that the Zags are one of the elite programs throughout the country and specifically this year one of only a few teams consistently showcasing their greatness. But I can’t help but wonder if watching routine bloodbaths as necessarily fun to watch.

Conference play has turned into close calls from San Francisco, maybe Saint Mary’s and BYU and that is about it. If the Bulldogs win by less than 10 points should Zag fans be worried?

The same school that Gonzaga beat by 59 points on Thursday took out a $4,000 full page ad in the November 15th edition of the Spokesman-Review. It was in response to Mark Few’s scorched-earth indictment of the lack of competition in the conference where he told reporters during preseason media events that it felt like “other programs aren’t even trying.”

The ad titled “GAME ON” doesn’t seem quite as reassuring after getting drubbed by 102 points over the two regular season games. To top it off, the only other program that had a chance to join the Zags in the tournament in March, San Francisco, lost inexplicably to San Diego over the weekend.

Last summer Gonzaga went on a few dates with potential conference suitor — most notably the Mountain West — only to let the WCC crawl back. The Mountain West so far hasn’t proved that the Zags are missing anything, as the teams have been a disappointment top to bottom. So maybe Gonzaga should take solace in the value of the beginning and end of year fun. At least bowl games and the NFL playoffs were fun this year?