We’re almost through with March, which means you’ve probably already been asked plenty of times if your bracket has been busted. Mine has; THANKS MICHIGAN STATE. However, even though I won’t be winning any cash money or sweet prizes this year, I have something even better to hold on to, at least for the moment. My Gonzaga Bulldogs are still in the race.
I graduated from Gonzaga in 2012, and as any Zag will tell you, college basketball is a way of life. It is Gonzaga’s eighteenth straight season making it to the NCAA March Madness Tournament. 18 years! While we’ve never won the championship, or even made it to the Final Four, Gonzaga has been a model of consistency when it comes to putting together a quality team. We don’t rebuild, we reload.
This year has been a transitional year for the Zags. After reaching the Elite Eight for only the second time in school history last year (the last time was in 1999), Gonzaga lost our starting guards to graduation, leaving us with freshman point guard Josh Perkins and transfer student Eric McClellan to take over.
There were growing pains to say the least. It’s taken the backcourt most of the season to a get a feel for the college game, and in many cases, they learned the hard the way. Gonzaga has lost quite a few games this year, more than they should have in order to make their selection for the tournament an easy choice for the selection committee. In fact, had the Zags not won the West Coast Conference tournament outright to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, they might not have made it in at all, breaking their incredible streak.
The team knew they had to win the WCC Tournament or there would be no more basketball left to play in March. And boy did they play like it. In the few games they played, Gonzaga finally looked like they were playing up to their potential, eventually defeating conference rivals St.Mary’s in the championship to earn the autobid to the NCAA Tournament, and this was a St.Mary’s team that had defeated the Zags twice in the regular season.
It’s now the second weekend of the tournament, and Gonzaga is cruising. They handily defeated their first two opponents Seton Hall and Utah and are playing the best basketball they’ve played all year. Many people will tell you, it’s all about timing and how well you’re playing heading into the tournament. This team’s momentum is palpable, and many believe they are the dark horse to make a run to the Final Four.
The Zags play their Sweet Sixteen match up tonight against the Syracuse Orange. If they get past them, either Virginia or Iowa State await them in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
As the lowest seeded team left in the tournament, Gonzaga is the clear underdog. You like underdogs right? Of course you do. Which is even more of a reason to root for them tonight and continue their awesome run through the tournament.
You can catch the game on CBS at 6:40pm PST, or stream the game for free on www.ncaa.com.