By Jack Knowlton
In a world of chaos, Gonzaga has been one of the only very consistent performers in men’s college basketball. Gonzaga currently boasts an undefeated record, sitting at number one atop the college basketball world, much to the dismay of fans of Duke, UNC, and Kentucky.
The Zags have been, well, the Zags. Say what you want about the West Coast Conference, the Zags have smacked everyone in the WCC, leading the NCAA in scoring with over 94 points per game while shooting an NCAA best 55% from the field. But not all this came against teams like Pacific and Saint Mary’s, the Zags also won non-conference games against ranked teams including West Virginia and Iowa. With a deep roster of NBA capable talent led by senior and Washington native Corey Kispert, Gonzaga looks as formidable as ever, posed to stay at the top of the college basketball well into March.
The projection for the Zags is to escape the regular season unscathed, snag a one seed in the tournament and end up in a huge marquee matchup for the kings of the dance. However, there is something Gonzaga can’t escape from heading into March: History. Simply put, Gonzaga is notorious for mishaps in the tournament. They often head into March with high expectations but fall short often in surprising fashion.
Gonzaga’s misery has even started as early as the West Coast Conference tournament. Their play in this conference has led to calls of Gonzaga being a team that reaps the benefits of playing in a smaller conference. This means a loss in the regular season or conference tournament costs them a lot more. In 2018-19 (the last full college basketball season), the Zags were shocked in the WCC championship when Saint Mary’s stole an NCAA Tournament bid, upsetting the number one team in the nation. Gonzaga would go on as a No. 1 seed to lose in the Elite 8 of the ensuing NCAA tournament to Texas Tech. It’s the Big Dance where Gonzaga fans have seen the biggest heartbreak. The biggest coming in 2012-13 where the AP #1 ranked Zags would fall far short of the Elite 8. They narrowly avoided a historic upset in the first round after beating the SWAC champ and 16 seed Southern by just 6 points. Then, Gonzaga lost in the second round to eventual Cinderella team Wichita State. Since that season, Gonzaga has still consistently made the tournament but has only been to the Final Four once, losing in 2017 to North Carolina.
This is not meant to be an article to trash Gonzaga. The Zags squad and their coach have cemented their legacy in college basketball. This year’s performances suggest they will be at the peak of their powers come tournament time, which should not come as a surprise. This year’s squad is immensely talented and SHOULD march deep into the tournament, maybe setting up what would make for an epic national championship between the Zags and other strong performers this season including Baylor and Michigan. However, the keyword here is SHOULD. Gonzaga SHOULD meet these expectations. That being said, we would be foolish to automatically assume the Zags will be in the national championship and, while I understand it, would be also foolish to declare that they are destined to be upset. I simply offer some caution to those who may think the tournament will be a cake walk this season. The Zags of 2021 could be different, but if history repeats itself, this squad could be in trouble. March is madness for a reason and a perfect season for a squad who has struggled as a high seed in the past could mean the end for one of this season’s favorites if they aren’t careful and a Cinderella or a pesky lower seed comes along and spoils the party.
Edited by Tyler Kading