In this week's cover story, we chronicle the once-proud Seattle University men's basketball team's return to Division I after 30 years in the wilderness. Led by NBA prospect Chuck Garcia (pictured), the Redhawks have been surprisingly competitive against established programs, knocking off the likes of Oregon State, Utah, Portland State, Fresno State, and Weber State.
Independent Seattle U has fared well against Big Sky opponents like Eastern Washington this year.
With a record of 11-13, if the Redhawks win 5 of their last 7 games, they could, despite being ineligible for the year-end NCAA tournament, end up in a lesser postseason bracket, like the NIT. And if the Pac-10 expands anytime soon, which is looking likelier than ever, the Redhawks, who currently play an independent schedule (college sports' equivalent to being an orphan), could find themselves in a proper conference sooner rather than later.
In his story on Pac-10 expansion, Bud Withers talks of a Pac-12 that could add schools like Utah, Brigham Young, Fresno State, Boise State, Colorado, and even Texas, in spite of the obvious geographic disconnect. One school he doesn't mention is Gonzaga, probably because the Bulldogs don't field a competitive football team.
That should only be a minor nuisance, however. Notre Dame plays hoops in the Big East while maintaining its independent status for football, after all. The Pac-10 could add Gonzaga for basketball and Boise State for football--both of which would instantly bolster the conference's RPI--before looking to a more well-rounded institution for the final slot. As it stands, Gonzaga typically plays the toughest non-conference road schedule in the nation just to secure a fourth or fifth seed in the NCAA tourney. Joining the Pac-10 would provide welcome respite from that predicament, while strengthening regional rivalries with the likes of WSU and UW (the Huskies wouldn't be able to chicken out anymore).
While Seattle U could walk into the Big Sky and be instantly competitive, the WCC, which consists almost entirely of West Coast Jesuit schools, including Gonzaga, remains the best fit for Cameron Dollar & Co.. Because it already has an even number of teams and is loath to further water down its RPI, the WCC--especially Gonzaga coach Mark Few--has been far from enthusiastic at the prospect of adding the Redhawks to its rolls. But should the Bulldogs bolt for a newfangled Pac-12, SU's prospects of entering its conference of destiny would be infinitely brighter.