For a while, it looked like Gonzaga might be on the move to the Mountain West. The WCC sweetened the pot for the mid-major superpower, and now the move may not happen.
Gonzaga has a number of issues with its current college affiliations. The league has a pretty even split in revenue from NCAA Tournament games, almost all of which comes from the Bulldogs' deep run.
Outside of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, there aren't a ton of competitive teams in the league. That drives down the team's RPI every year once conference play rolls around.
Earlier in the week, the WCC took steps to address both of those issues, in what looks like a pretty clear effort to keep Gonzaga. From The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Earlier in the week, the WCC announced several significant scheduling changes to appease Gonzaga. Most notably, the regular-season schedule in the 10-school league will be reduced from a double round robin to 16 games, and the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds will receive double byes to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
That allows Gonzaga to play fewer of the WCC’s lower-rung teams that drag down its RPI and other computer metrics used to determine selection and seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Zags — who have reached 20 straight NCAA Tournaments and played in the national championship game a year ago — can schedule tougher nonconference games to compensate.
Another issue was the distribution of NCAA Tournament monetary shares, the bulk of which Gonzaga was earning for the conference but were being split evenly among the membership. The WCC release mentioned an adjusted distribution of shares, which increase each round of the tournament and are accumulated for six years, but did not provide details.
Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson has been extremely transparent about his league's potential expansion. He admits that it looks unlikely that Gonzaga will be joining:
“For next season, it doesn’t look promising,” Thompson said shortly before Loyola Chicago and Michigan tipped off in the first semifinal at the Alamodome. “I’d put it like this: Today is today, none of us can predict tomorrow.
Thompson also made it clear that the Mountain West members probably wouldn't be willing to play ball with Gonzaga the way the WCC has.
“You look at what the West Coast Conference did to accommodate them,” Thompson said. “Congratulations, that’s a good deal for them. There are just some things in there that I don’t think our membership would have accepted.
Conference expansion can always change quickly, but it seems unlikely that we'll see the Zags making a big move for 2018-2019. It is interesting that things got this far, however, so you never know what the future, or perhaps a missed NCAA Tournament due to RPI concerns, could bring.