For the first time in school history, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are ranked No.1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. After last night’s 85-75 victory over conference rival Brigham Young University, the Zags improved to 23-0 on the season. While achieving this, they simultaneously extended their school record consecutive game winning streak to 23. Your average sports fan outside of Spokane, WA most likely couldn’t point out Gonzaga on a map, let alone believe that they are the top team in the country. However, this year’s continued success is nothing new to the Bulldogs and their loyal fan base.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has quietly established himself as one of the most accomplished coaches in the country. Entering his 18th season at the helm, Gonzaga has reached the NCAA tournament 18 straight times and are well on their way to continuing that streak this year. Along the way, they have also dominated the West Coast Conference. The Zags have piled up 15 WCC regular season championships and 13 WCC tournament championships. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs have never advanced farther than the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament, and that is something they are looking to exceed this season.
Despite all their past accomplishes and recent achievements, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have always been described as overrated. It took multiple 1 loss teams to fall as No. 1 just for the Zags to even be discussed. Finally, this past week when Villanova lost to Marquette (in a ridiculous late second half comeback) they were able to claim what was rightfully theirs. Standing alone as the only undefeated team left in Division 1 speaks for itself, especially this late in the season.
Most of the critics out there want to scrutinize Gonzaga for being in the WCC, and think they don’t play any worthy opponents. That might have been a fair criticism in the past, but not in the 2016-17 season. The Bulldogs have gone up against four previously or currently ranked Top 25 challengers and conquered them all. Once 21st ranked Iowa ST, No. 24 Florida, No. 5 Arizona (who knocked off previously ranked No.1 UCLA), and conference foe No. 18 Saint Mary’s all went head to head with the Zags and all ended in a similar losing effort. That resume alone can easily be stacked up with anyone else in the country, not to mention they also beat a Tennessee team who shockingly upset the Kentucky Wildcats.
So, is Gonzaga overrated? No, if anything they are underrated and disrespected. They’re just a small school out in Washington, who doesn’t get many nationally televised games, yet continues to win and improve from game to game. They aren’t a flashy team, but they have capable shooters everywhere and size down in the post. I’m not going to sit here and crown them tournament champions just yet, because I do believe there are more talented teams out there. However, I don’t know how you can say they don’t deserve the No. 1 ranking they currently hold. There are only a few questions left to answer. Will they sweep the regular season and go undefeated? Can the Zags finally get past the Elite 8 and win it all in Phoenix, AZ? One thing I do know is you better get your dancing shoes ready, because I see this year’s March Madness Tournament being one for the ages.