Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
They said Gonzaga was overrated.
They said Gonzaga didn’t play anybody.
They said Gonzaga would not be prepared for close games.
They said Gonzaga would choke like usual.
They said Gonzaga would never get to the Final Four.
What “they” said, none of it was true.
For Gonzaga, this was about Gonzaga.
Despite the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ disappointing 71-65 loss in this season’s NCAA men’s basketball national championship game against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Bulldogs were able to prove everybody wrong and set their doubters straight by debunking all of the myths that we have heard about them for decades.
Myth #1 Gonzaga is overrated.
A #1 seed for a mid-major team seems far-fetched, but not for Gonzaga, a team that entered the tournament with a 32-1 record. A national championship game appearance validates the fact that the Bulldogs are nowhere near overrated despite playing in a much weaker conference than many of the other top contenders for this season’s national championship.
Myth #2: Gonzaga didn’t play anybody.
How about regular season victories over the Florida Gators, who made it to the Elite Eight as a 4 seed, the Arizona Wildcats, who made it to the Sweet Sixteen as a 2 seed, the Iowa State Cyclones, who made it to the Round of 32 as a 5 seed, and the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who only had two losses NOT to Gonzaga and made it to the Round of 32 as a 7 seed? It was pretty clear that Gonzaga was battle-tested coming into the tournament, and they showed that they were ready to compete on the highest level by winning once they got there.
Myth #3: Gonzaga would not be prepared for close games.
Four of those six games won by Gonzaga that were mentioned in Myth #2 were decided by 10 points or less. Sure, Gonzaga blew out almost all of their West Coast Conference (WCC) opponents, but they won a handful of close games as well. In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, they beat the Northwestern Wildcats by a score of 79-73, the West Virginia Mountaineers by a score of 61-58, and the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 77-73. Tell me again how they can’t handle the pressure of close games?
Myth #4: Gonzaga always chokes.
Gonzaga had never been to the Final Four before. Their most recent Elite Eight appearance was in 2015, when they lost after blowing a lead to the eventual champion Duke Blue Devils. Much of the roster of this year’s team was different from the roster in 2015, and this year’s was clearly better. How 2015 (and even many years earlier) can even remotely affect people’s perception of this year’s team, I have no idea. Gonzaga proved those people wrong by getting not only to the Final Four for the first time in school history, but to the national championship game as well.
Myth #5: Gonzaga will never make it to the Final Four.
Hmm… Do a Google search “Gonzaga vs. Xavier” and see what comes up. Then try “Gonzaga vs. South Carolina” and “Gonzaga vs. North Carolina.” See what you can come up with, then get back to me on that.
No, Gonzaga is not the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament champion. But what they accomplished this past season from start to finish shows once and for all that great mid-major conference teams are deserving of respect and are just as good as some of the top teams from the major conferences.
Gonzaga proved their doubters wrong, and they may have paved the way for future elite mid-major conference teams to do so as well. Hopefully those teams will get the respect they deserve right from the start, unlike Gonzaga, thanks to Gonzaga’s incredible run.