Tuesday, May 17

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

What college basketball needs right now: Fans in the stands, coaches on the recruiting route, watching five-star prospects and unknown gems at the Nike Peach Jam, and teams traveling to play away games without fear of them. cancel due to contact. tracking. Hopefully the sport will be able to return to all of these essentials very soon.

What college basketball never needs: the irritating elitism of college football.

The NCAA Tournament is an egalitarian enterprise. Despite all the complaints about how intermediate programs don’t get a fair deal, they are guaranteed about one-third of the field each year, one-third of the chances to compete for a national championship. Some, like the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, come extremely close to claiming that title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs were so close so often and invested so much in the pursuit of excellence that they were able to outperform the middle mark.

Yet despite all that they accomplish, there are still some willing to destroy logic in an attempt to push them back into that category.

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The Zags continue to compete in the West Coast Conference. They have won or shared their regular season championship in 20 of the last 21 seasons. They haven’t missed an NCAA tournament since 1998.

And if that was where it all stopped, getting into the tournament, coming home quickly, maybe there would be a case where remaining a member of the WCC is an impediment that cannot be overcome. However, the Zags were still alive in March Madness 2021, having advanced in April to the Final Four.

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They were still alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, with a perfect record at the start of the NCAA championship game. It was the second time since 2017 that they made it this far in the tournament. They came close to winning the title in 2017, a one-point game against North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining that turned into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags were soundly beaten, this time, by an extraordinary Baylor team that performed at the top of their game.

Many people saw what happened and came to this conclusion: playing in the WCC did not prepare the Zags for the tournament. They were not battle tested. That is why they lost. Not the 10 3-pointers the Bears made, not their 48.5 offensive rebounding percentage, not the suddenly misguided shots from Gonzaga’s All-American Corey Kispert.

But no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.

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Fortunately, no one in the sports media in America was foolish enough to propose this theory to Gonzaga’s coach, Mark Few, after the loss to Baylor, so I have no quotes from him to decorate this column. I only have facts, which should shout out loud to everyone that “battle tested” is a myth. The Zag’s difficulty in winning the NCAA championships comes down to, and this can be difficult to understand, that it is difficult to win an NCAA championship.

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Since 2015, when the Zags advanced to Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as their star player, Gonzaga has won more NCAA Tournament games than any other program.

His 20 NCAA victories are more than two-time champion Villanova (17), more than North Carolina (16), more than Duke (15), more than Kansas and Kentucky (13 each) and more than Wisconsin (10). That’s how it is. You line up the blue bloods, Gonzaga’s recent major conference powers and NCAA tournament success, while supposedly hampered by the WCC, tops them all.

In that six-tournament span, the eventual NCAA champion eliminated them three times and a Final Four entrant eliminated them twice. They have reached two Final Fours in that span. Only Villanova, North Carolina, and the state of Michigan can say the same. Here are some of the teams Gonzaga has defeated in that time: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six Sweet 16s in a row. No other active varsity team can match that streak. In fact, since the tournament’s expansion to 64 teams in 1985, only three other times has such a streak been achieved: two by Duke and one by North Carolina.

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If the Zags aren’t properly prepared for the NCAA Tournament, who the hell is it?

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The top two ranked conferences according to the NCAA NET system in 2020-21 were Big Ten and Big 12. They produced 16 NCAA tournament offerings between them, but only two teams advanced to Sweet 16. Their experience suggests that being “battle tested” could actually be a detriment when looking for a championship ring.

Gonzaga’s firing is a product of elitism spilling over from college football, which is so ingrained in its aristocracy that it refuses even to allow programs to get championship opportunities on the field, whether they come from the richest conferences or the most. there. In the college football knockout tournament, teams do not win their positions in the tournament. They are universally selected.

A Gonzaga would never stand a chance in an operation like this, but the Zags are welcome in college basketball. The most rational fans of the game understand its value, its talent and its achievements.

Is That’s right. It really is not complicated. The facts cannot be discussed, only ignored.


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