Sports

Blaming Gonzaga’s WCC affiliation for NCAA championship loss is a disservice to basketball — and logic


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What faculty basketball wants proper now: followers within the stands coaches out on the recruiting path, watching five-star prospects and undiscovered gems on the Nike Peach Jam, and groups touring to play street video games with out concern they’ll be known as off due to contact tracing. Hopefully the game might be in a position to return to all of those important parts very quickly.

What faculty basketball doesn’t want, ever: faculty soccer’s galling elitism.

The NCAA Tournament is an egalitarian enterprise. For all of the carping about how mid-major applications don’t get a truthful deal, they’re assured annually roughly one-third of the sector — one-third of the alternatives to compete for a nationwide championship. Some, such because the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, advance extraordinarily close to to claiming that title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs got here so shut so typically and invested a lot in pursuing excellence they have been in a position to outgrow the mid-major label.

For all they accomplish, although, there nonetheless are some prepared to destroy logic within the try to shove them again into that class.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all

The Zags proceed to compete within the West Coast Conference. They have gained or shared its regular-season championship in 20 of the previous 21 seasons. They haven’t missed an NCAA Tournament since 1998.

And if that was the place all of it stopped — coming into the event, going residence shortly — maybe there could be a case that remaining as a WCC member is an obstacle that can not be overcome. The Zags nonetheless have been alive in March Madness 2021, although, because it steamrolled into April for the Final Four.

They nonetheless have been alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, carrying a good document into tipoff of the NCAA championship sport. It was the second time since 2017 they obtained that far within the event. They got here shut to profitable the title in 2017, a one-point sport towards North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining turning into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags have been overwhelmed soundly, this time, by a unprecedented Baylor group that carried out on the peak of its sport.

Lots of people watched what occurred and got here to this conclusion: Playing within the WCC didn’t put together the Zags for the event. They weren’t battle-tested. That’s why they misplaced. Not the ten 3-pointers the Bears made, or their 48.5 offensive rebound share, or Gonzaga All-American Corey Kispert’s all of the sudden wayward capturing.

But no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.



Mercifully, nobody amongst America’s sporting media was silly sufficient to suggest this idea to Gonzaga coach Mark Few following the loss to Baylor, so I’ve no quotes from him to enhance this column. I’ve solely details, which ought to scream loudly to everybody that “battle-tested” is a myth. The Zags’ issue in profitable the NCAA championships comes down to — and this can be onerous to grasp — it is troublesome to win an NCAA championship.

MORE: Breaking down the 1-minute, 36-second stretch that ended Gonzaga’s title hopes

Since 2015, when the Zags superior to the Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as their star participant, Gonzaga has gained extra NCAA Tournament video games than every other program.

Its 20 NCAA victories are greater than two-time champion Villanova (17), greater than North Carolina (16), greater than Duke (15), greater than Kansas and Kentucky (13 every) and greater than Wisconsin (10). That’s proper. You line up the blue bloods, the current major-conference powers, and Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament success — whereas supposedly being hindered by the WCC — exceeds everybody.

In that six-tournament interval, it took the eventual NCAA champion to eradicate them thrice and a Final Four entrant to eradicate them twice. They have reached two Final Fours in that interval. Only Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State can say the identical. These are a number of the groups Gonzaga has defeated in that point: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six consecutive Sweet 16s. No different lively faculty group can match that streak. In truth, because the event enlargement to 64 groups in 1985, solely three different instances has such a streak been achieved: twice by Duke, and as soon as by North Carolina.

If the Zags will not be correctly ready for the NCAA Tournament, then who on Earth is?

MORE: Baylor ends Gonzaga’s perfect season with a Texas-sized storybook finish

The two highest-rated conferences in accordance to the NCAA’s NET system in 2020-21 have been the Big Ten and Big 12. They produced 16 NCAA event bids between them, however solely two groups that superior so far as the Sweet 16. Their expertise means that being “battle-tested” really may be a detriment in pursuit of a championship ring.


The dismissal of Gonzaga is a product of the elitism that bleeds over from faculty soccer, which is so entrenched in its aristocracy that it refuses even to enable applications to earn championship alternatives on the sector, whether or not they come from the wealthiest conferences or past. In the College Football Playoff invitational, groups don’t earn their positions within the event. They are, universally, chosen.

A Gonzaga by no means would stand a probability in such an operation, however the Zags are welcome in faculty basketball. The sport’s most rational followers perceive their worth, their expertise and their achievement.

This is right. It’s actually not difficult. The details can’t be disputed, solely ignored.



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