-By Patrick Behof
As February Frenzy turns into March Madness in the craziest college basketball season that I can remember, we see that it is the usual suspects like Indiana, Kansas, and Michigan St, and a few surprises like the Miami Hurricanes atop the rankings and on the minds of college basketball fans. The one team however that no one seems to be talking about is the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Despite being both a mid major and national power for the last decade and making 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, Gonzaga has still not earned their due respect from the rest of the college basketball world. The one knock on the Zags has always been the weakness of the conference in which they play, which is the WCC. The argument has always been that beating up on teams like San Francisco and Pepperdine year in and year out does not prepare you to make a deep run in March. While this argument may have proven true in the past with other talented Gonzaga teams, I believe that this year’s team is very different.
This years Gonzaga team currently has an RPI of 12 and has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, which has included wins over five Big 12 conference teams. While the only losses for the Zags this year have been a close one at home to Illinois and a buzzer beater loss at Butler — two probable NCAA tournament teams. These numbers prove that this is a team that can match up with any team in America.
The Zags are arguably the most balanced team in the nation as well, starting with the experienced frontcourt duo of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. After two disappointing years coming of the bench, Olynyk opted to redshirt last season in order to build strength and improve his overall game. This decision has worked wonders so far this season for the Bulldogs, as Olynyk has emerged as one of the best players in the nation, and become a dynamic leader not seen in Spokane since Adam Morrison. Factor in the young but talented backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., and the brilliance and experience of longtime coach Mark Few, and I believe that the Zags have their best team ever, and the perfect formula to make it to Atlanta and the Final Four.
So, as you fill out your brackets this March college basketball fans remember not to sleep on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, because I certainly will not.