By: Garrett Giles
The current number-one college basketball team in the country is undefeated, but don’t let their 26-0 record fool you. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been playing lights out so far this season, but this doesn’t guarantee that they have what it takes to win it all in the NCAA Tournament come March.
First of all, their conference (West Coast Conference) schedule is as soft as a pillow, granted BYU (18-9) and Saint Mary’s (22-3) will probably clinch a spot in the tournament. However, between these two teams, only three of the fifty-two games they’ve played has a chance a solid chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament. BYU opened the season with a win 82-73 against first place Princeton (15-6) from the Ivy League, followed by a 92-89 loss to Valparaiso (21-5) from the Horizon League four games later. BYU also lost 91-84 to USC (21-5) from the Pac-12 Conference, who is in the middle of the pack in their conference. Saint Mary’s lost 65-51 to UT Arlington (19-6) who leads in the Sun Belt Conference, but even that shouldn’t convince people that Saint Mary’s is a legit contender from the WCC. That’s 1-3 against teams to look out for in March. Don’t even let the fact that they barely lost to tournament teams fool you either. BYU has faltered to teams like Utah Valley, Santa Clara, and San Diego while Saint Mary’s hasn’t played a top-notch college basketball team outside of BYU and Gonzaga and even they aren’t “top-notch.” Give kudos to BYU for at least attempting to face tougher teams like USC and Illinois. The fact that BYU, who has a tougher schedule, is unranked while Saint Mary’s sits pretty at number twenty-two when the reality is that they’re actually horrifically ugly.
Tournament history is another facet in the flawed gem that is Gonzaga. Historically the Bulldogs have been an early out team since 2002. Since then, the Bulldogs are 17-15 overall, going 12-13 until 2015 where they turned things around going 5-2 leading up to the ensuing NCAA Tournament. If history serves us well though, we’d know that 17-15 in the tournament is average at best for most teams, but not so for Gonzaga. Since 2002, Gonzaga has been bested in the first and second rounds by countless teams. These teams (in chronological order from 2002) include: Wyoming (11-seed), Arizona (1-seed), Nevada (10-seed), Texas Tech (6-seed), Indiana (7-seed), Davidson (10-seed), Syracuse (1-seed), BYU (3-seed), Ohio State (2-seed), Wichita State (8-seed), and Arizona (1-seed). I remember specifically the 2013 game against Wichita State. Everyone hyped the then 1-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs to go on to do great things in the tournament because they were the “best team” in the country. Wichita State went to the Final Four that year while Gonzaga wiped the tears from their eyes back in Spokane, Washington.
Do what you will with your brackets, but hear my warning. Don’t make the same mistakes that I, and plenty American’s have made in the past. Don’t be fooled by the “experts” on ESPN. Do some research for yourself and make the best decisions for you. March is quickly approaching. DO NOT FEAR! I’m just trying to save you some headache this year. Personally, I’ve got the Zags losing in the Sweet 16 in my mind right-now, but that may change. With history and the brackets coming up, they may just lose in the second round.