Washington and Gonzaga: Behind the Numbers


This is Part II of the three part series examining whether the Washington-Gonzaga series should resume. If you missed Part I last Saturday, click here.

In discussing whether the Washington and Gonzaga series should resume, one argument often brought up by fans on both sides is who “needs” who more. The argument that Husky fans often use goes something like this; Gonzaga needs Washington more since they play in such a weak conference (WCC) that they need to schedule up in their non-conference schedule to improve their RPI and strength of schedule so that they can still be in a position to earn an at-large bid if they fail to win their conference tournament. The Huskies don’t need Gonzaga as much since the Pac-10/12 is so tough that the strength of schedule is already pretty difficult. Thus, the Huskies typically schedule lower-tiered teams in the non-conference schedule to get some practice games in before the meat of their schedule gets going in January. Their RPI will rise naturally in the 2nd half of the season, while Gonzaga’s will drop, regardless of the number of wins they earn.

The argument that Zag fans often use goes something like this; Washington is scared of Gonzaga and losing to them every year is just too embarrassing. In addition, Washington plays a really weak non-conference schedule to load up on wins. But, they typically lose any tough non-conference games they play, especially on the road. Gonzaga already plays a really tough non-conference schedule, including many on the road, so they don’t really “need” to play the Huskies since they get plenty of teams like that on their schedule already. In recent years Gonzaga has played Michigan State, Arizona, UConn, etc. Washington needs to play Gonzaga more so that they can improve their typically weak non-conference schedule and get a little more hype nationally.

Both arguments have legitimacy. There is a valid argument to be made that neither team really “needs” the other. Each had their own path and it has resulted in moderate success. However, neither program has broken through to anything resembling national power status or breaking the Sweet 16 even once in the last decade. So, let’s take a look back at how these two programs have fared since the series ended in late 2007:

* Gonzaga has appeared in 13 consecutive NCAA tournaments dating back to 1999.

* Washington has appeared in 7 NCAA tournaments in 10 years since Lorenzo Romar took over in 2003.


* Washington wins the Pac-10 regular season title, earns a #4 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in 2nd round. Finishes with a 26-9 record.Final RPI: 13   SOS: 24

* Gonzaga wins WCC regular season and tournament title, earns a #7 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in 1st round. Finishes with a 28-6 record.Final RPI: 21   SOS: 74


* Washington finishes 3rd in Pac-10, wins Pac-10 tournament, earns a #11 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in Sweet 16. Finishes with a 26-10 record.Final RPI: 34    SOS: 44

* Gonzaga wins WCC regular season title, loses in final of WCC tournament, earns #8 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in 2nd round. Finishes with a 27-7 record.Final RPI: 33    SOS: 100


* Washington finishes 3rd in Pac-10, wins Pac-10 tournament, earns a #7 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in 2nd round. Finishes with a 24-11 record.Final RPI: 30    SOS: 35

* Gonzaga tied for WCC regular season title and wins WCC tournament, earns #11 seed in NCAA tournament, loses in 2nd round. Finishes with a 25-10 record.Final RPI: 49    SOS: 49


* Washington wins Pac-12 regular season title, but loses in 1st round of Pac-12 tournament. Misses NCAA tournament and plays to the semi-finals of the NIT. Finishes with a 24-11 record.RPI: 54    SOS: 63

* Gonzaga finishes 2nd in the WCC regular season and loses in final of the WCC tournament. Earns a #7 seed in NCAA tournament. Loses in 2nd round. Finishes with a 26-7 record.RPI: 24   SOS: 69

What I see from these numbers is that both programs have actually been pretty close to on par with each other. Gonzaga tends to have a better overall record, but that’s because they typically have a weaker overall strength of schedule. The average final RPI for Washington is 32.75 and the average final SOS is 41.50. The average final RPI for Gonzaga is 31.75 and the average final SOS is 73.00.

So, who needs who more? Well, I think you could easily make the argument that neither team really “needs” each other. The Huskies have underachieved the past few years while Gonzaga has maintained consistency, but never broken through the mid-major barrier the way a Butler or VCU has. But, just because these two teams don’t “need” each other doesn’t mean that playing each other every year would not spice up the season and may actually lead to better results for both programs. I think you could argue that having a true rival each fan base could get behind would be great for basketball in the Pacific Northwest and would help both teams in recruiting. Players love to go to places with passion and having that game would certainly provide that.

What do you think?

In my next post, I’ll detail one option that could really lead to some excitement among the alumni and fan bases of these two schools, as well as, the alumni of the other three Division I schools in the state. But, before that, I’ll throw out one idea to contemplate…

Would a neutral court game between Washington and Gonzaga at the Rose Garden in Portland work?

It’s a large NBA arena capable of generating some revenue. It is on the border with Washington giving alumni/fans of both schools in the Vancouver/Clark County area an opportunity to see the teams without having to do 3+ hour drives. It would give both programs a greater presence in the Greater Portland area for the increasingly attractive recruiting base it has become (Think T. Jones, T. Ross, K. Wiltjer, A. Andrews, M. Hart, Jordan Tebbutt, etc). Potential Oregon recruits would not have to drive all the way to Corvallis or Eugene to see the Huskies play. Gonzaga already plays once a year against the Portland Pilots in their tiny arena. But, what about a game in an NBA venue? Just something to contemplate…