Gonzaga Basketball is a Legitimate Force in 2016-17
Posted: Apr 11, 2017
For years, NCAA bracket-fillers near and wide have known that Gonzaga is your go-to bracket-buster. If they’re an 11-seed, you know they’re going to wipe out the #6 seed. If they’re a 12-seed, even the guy at the office who still favors the two-hand set shot is going to know that they’re going to be the upset du jour in the first round of the tournament.
But what do you when the Bulldogs aren’t a bracket-buster, but rather the best team in the country?
Gonzaga is cruising towards a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, sitting as the only remaining undefeated team in the country 17-0. They’ve climbed the polls to No. 4 in the country, with only Villanova, Kansas, and UCLA ahead of them.
How did the Bulldogs go from upset specialist to powerhouse while playing out in the Pacific Northwest sanctuary of Spokane, Washington?
By not resting on their laurels of a guaranteed spot in the tournament every year by being the conference champion, and going out and scheduling harder and harder competition every year to build a resume for both poll voters and recruits as a true basketball Mecca.
It was 1999 when Gonzaga first got on the map in NCAA basketball, making the Sweet 16 by upsetting No. 7 Stanford and No. 23 Florida.
Since that season, the Bulldogs have scheduled and played 19 regular-season games against opponents ranked in the Top 10. Not surprisingly, they lost most of the early ones, but in recent years have been highly competitive, beating No. 9 Baylor in 2011 and losing to No. 3 Arizona in overtime in 2015.
As their regular-season schedule toughness has gone up, so too has Gonzaga’s post-season power position. They were a No. 2 seed in 2004 after going 28-3 but were upset by Nevada in the second round. Their first No. 1 seed came in 2013 when they went 3-2 but were shocked by, appropriately, the Wichita State Shockers, in the second round.
They’ve never made it back to the Elite 8 since that first magical run, but things are seeming to come together in a special way this season.
For starters, they have perhaps the greatest homecourt advantage in all of the sport. With an enrollment of just under 5,000 students, the school’s basketball arena, McCarthey Athletic Center, has a capacity of 6,000. The Huskies have sold out every home game since 2004, they’re 170-13 all-time at McCarthey, and this year they’re 10-0 and winning by an average margin of 89-60.
Even more impressive in their balanced scoring attack, something that is absolutely integral come tournament time when the big dogs will put defensive specialists on little school’s top scorers and lock them down. The Huskies are averaging almost 86 points per game with seven guys that average between 8.5 and 15.2 points per game.And perhaps most impressively, this Gonzaga unit won’t be labeled scrappy or undersized or feisty by any announcer come March Madness. Half of their eight-man rotation goes 6-feet, 9-inches or taller, with a seven-footer Zach Collins and 7-foot, 1-inch Przemek Karnowski leading the way.
Bernie got his start at Prospect Insider seven years ago and has been covering the ncaa men's college basketball news, and prospects ever since.