So let’s face it, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are no longer a Cinderella story. They have arrived as an elite college basketball team. With almost two decades of dominance in the West Coast Conference and 18 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament, the question now becomes, when will they finally get to their first Final Four.
They are a #1 seed in this years tournament, but that doesn’t always mean a guaranteed trip to the regional finals. The last time the Bulldogs were a #1 seed they didn’t even make it to the sweet 16. They ended up losing in the round of 32 to Wichita State in 2013. As a matter of fact, in five of the last seven seasons, at least one #1 seed has lost in the round of 32. So why does this Gonzaga team have a shot to finally get to the promise land?
The Bulldogs don’t have a very talented conference, so every season they schedule tougher out of conference teams. This year, that included teams like, San Diego State, Florida, Iowa State, and Arizona. They went undefeated against those schools. Their only blemish on their schedule was a home loss on senior night to BYU. That loss may have been the best thing that could have happened, because now they do not enter the tournament undefeated and have taken the “perfect season” talk away. Another reason for finally reaching the Final Four is the talent and depth they have on the roster.
Great recruiting from head coach Mark Few and his staff has allowed Gonzaga to reload year after year. For example, they have a 7 foot tall freshman Zach Collins, who was a 2016 McDonald’s All-American player. He comes off of the bench. He backs up the senior Przemek Karnowski who is also over 7 feet tall. Karnowski is from Poland and is on a long list of international talent that has come from Gonzaga. But maybe their most important piece of this years team isn’t someone that they recruited, its a transfer from the University of Washington.
Nigel Williams-Goss is a red shirt Junior who averaged 16.9 points per game. He shoots over 90% from the free throw line, and was ranked the 19th overall best player coming out of high school. After playing for a struggling Washington team, he sat out last season to transfer to Gonzaga. His passion is contagious, his athleticism has lead him to a U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s 2016-17 All-America First Team , and up for national player of the year talk. He, and a lot of his fellow teammates get their first shot to shine on the big stage this week, and hopefully help Gonzaga finally get over the hump and make the first Final Four in team history.
Sources: GoZags.com, ESPN.com