Despite suffering their first loss of the season against BYU, the Gonzaga Zags still lead a pack of several teams that have shown glimpses of being capable of winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship this season. Look for NCAA college basketball lines at Skybook.
Much like Villanova a year ago, Gonzaga enters the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a team that has spent years posting regular season success, but without being able to break through for a Final Four run.
Since Mark Few became coach at Gonzaga for the 1999-2000 season, the Zags have reached the NCAA Tournament 17 straight times. However, only six times have they advanced past the first week of the tournament.
Twice in the last four tournaments, the Zags have entered as a number one or two seed. During the 2012-2013 season Gonzaga earned a number one seed for the first time, but lost in the round of 32 to Wichita State.
Two years later, Gonzaga was a number two seed and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time under Few. However, their dream of making the Final Four was dashed by eventual champion Duke.
With non-conference wins this season over Florida, Iowa State, Tennessee and Arizona, Gonzaga has shown that they can play with some of the top programs in the country. The loss to BYU will keep them from finishing with a perfect conference record for the fifth time, but they could still match their 17 conference wins from 2014-2015.
Of course, the NCAA Tournament is always very different than the regular season. To make a deep run doesn’t just take talent. It also requires a bit of luck and good fortune.
Just three years ago, Wichita State entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated and as a number one seed. However, they faced a very unfortunate draw that included a second round matchup against Kentucky, which had a regular season record worthy of an eighth seed, but went on a run to eventually reach the national title game.
When Gonzaga reached the Elite Eight two years ago, they were able to advance through the first weekend by defeating 15th seed North Dakota State and seventh seed Iowa. They then got a break when third seed Iowa State lost in the opening round. The Zags eventually ended up defeating 11th seed UCLA 74-62 to advance into the final eight.
In addition to Gonzaga, defending champion Villanova, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville, Arizona and Oregon all look capable of making a Final Four run. Of course, the key to success is also in not having an early round game against one of those “trap teams” who may not have the depth to make it all the way to the championship, but for one game can defeat anyone.