Commentary

Gaels, Zags again class of WCC

Saint Mary's, Gonzaga should continue West Coast dominance, even with BYU in mix

Updated: January 12, 2012, 1:03 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Matthew Dellavedova and Kevin Pangos US PresswireMatthew Dellavedova and Kevin Pangos will take the national stage tonight on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

I realize it's sacrilege to consider any rivalry the equal of the spirited and long-running discussion that's taken place between two rather well-known ACC schools, but indulge me for a moment and consider one data point:

Over the past four seasons, Duke and North Carolina have combined to win 75 percent of their conference games. No surprise there, right? We know the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels have long reigned supreme over the ACC, even when UNC's infamous down year (5-11 in 2010) is taken into consideration.

But if you want to see a league that's been flat-out dominated by its top two teams, you need to look at the West Coast Conference. Over the past four years, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's have combined to win an astounding 84 percent of their conference games. During that time, no other WCC team has even tied for second place, much less first. While the arrival of Brigham Young in the league this season was supposed to help break up this logjam, Saint Mary's 98-82 shellacking of the Cougars in Moraga, Calif., on Dec. 29 suggests that the newcomers from the Mountain West still have some work to do before they can join the WCC's big two.

So even in a newly configured, BYU-equipped WCC, tonight's game between the Zags and the Gaels in Moraga takes on all of its old significance (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 11 p.m. ET). Once again, the two teams at the top of the league, and once again, the winner of this head-to-head matchup will claim sole possession of first place. Let's break down these two teams, with an eye toward what we might see from them not only tonight but also in March.