The Gonzaga Bulldogs is not going to be the champions of the 2021-22 males’s school basketball season.
Alternate lede: It’s open season for Gonzaga haters for a minimum of one other 12 months.
The Zags, the NCAA event’s No. 1 general seed for a second consecutive 12 months, have been knocked off by fourth-seeded Arkansas within the Candy 16 Thursday evening, 74-68.
The end result was no fluke.
Eric Musselman’s group was extra bodily, appeared extra ready for the second, and made much more clutch performs down the stretch than their favored opponents. Now, the Hogs will play in a regional remaining for the second straight 12 months and are one win away from their first journey to a Closing 4 since 1995.
In Fayetteville and the encompassing areas, that would be the huge takeaway from Thursday evening’s upset in San Francisco. Nearly in all places else, the main target will lie with the opposite facet.
Gonzaga is simply the fourth program within the historical past of males’s school basketball to go to seven consecutive Candy 16s — Duke, North Carolina and UCLA are the opposite three. They’ve been to 23 consecutive NCAA tournaments, the third longest energetic streak within the nation (Kansas and Michigan State are the one applications with longer streaks). They’re the one program in addition to Kansas that has received a minimum of one recreation in every of the final 12 NCAA tournaments. Lastly, Gonzaga has been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed six occasions since 2013.
Bur none of these numbers actually hone in on the first focus right here: Zero. The variety of nationwide championships this absurd ascension from nameless mid-major to nationwide powerhouse has produced. On the finish of the day, it’s the one which issues essentially the most, and it’s the one one detractors of the Zags care about.
A 12 months after coming one victory away from changing into school basketball’s first unbeaten nationwide champion since 1976, Gonzaga was as soon as once more again because the NCAA event’s No. 1 general seed. They have been the betting favorites to chop down the nets in New Orleans, they led the nation in scoring common, they led the nation in scoring margin, they have been No. 1 in nearly each school hoops metric in existence, and so they had two nationwide Participant of the Yr candidates in Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren.
All that tells one facet of the story. The responses to any tweet or Instagram put up from a serious nationwide model about Gonzaga inform the opposite.
They don’t play in an actual convention
They at all times choke
They’ll choke once more subsequent 12 months
They’ll NEVER win the one which issues most
After one other quiet domination of the West Coast Convention, adopted by one other No. 1 seed and one other March Insanity the place they received’t be the final group standing, you may solely count on these feedback to accentuate. That’s the way in which this works.
Thursday’s loss was completely different than the March (or April) heartbreak of Gonzaga’s different latest runs. For all of the discuss of their fixed choking and early exits, the Bulldogs had by no means earlier than misplaced within the Candy 16 after they’d been a No. 1 seed. The truth that their first third spherical failure as a high canine coincided with Arkansas’ first win ever over a No. 1 seed (0-10 beforehand) ought to present a wholesome dose of salt in that also contemporary wound.
“After every week or so we’ll look again and we’ll be capable to — it’s laborious,” a dejected Gonzaga head coach Mark Few stated after the sport. “We’re not used to dropping on this spherical. Over these final 4 or 5 years we’ve been capable of advance previous this spherical and maintain it going, so I believe we’re a bit of bit in shock.”
Shocked may be how the Gonzaga gamers will really feel for some time, however a wholesome chunk of the sports activities world who watched Few’s group play Thursday evening would probably let you know (a minimum of now) that they weren’t even mildly stunned.
Gonzaga’s first NCAA event look got here in 1995, however for all intents and functions, its true introduction to March Insanity got here in 1999. It was then that the Tenth-seeded Bulldogs pulled three consecutive upsets earlier than taking a slender loss to top-seeded UConn within the Elite Eight. The world realized who Gonzaga was, and this system hasn’t missed a Massive Dance since.
Someplace between then and now, the little program that might turned the overrated program that can’t and by no means will. The latter title will stick for a minimum of one other 12 months.
In school basketball, the narrative stays the narrative till essentially the most seismic of shifts explodes the narrative into one million indistinguishable items. The anecdotal will at all times trump the tangible on this sport, and there’s no gradual stigma shed. Your fame is your fame till you do one thing that turns it inside out and morphs it into its antithesis. The razor-thin margin between two extremes appears wholly unfair, but it surely’s additionally a direct reflection of the NCAA event and the unabated energy it wields.
Thirty years in the past, Mike Krzyzewski was a superb coach who was by no means going to be nice as a result of he couldn’t win the massive one. Six years in the past, Jay Wright and Villanova might by no means make it out of the event’s first weekend regardless of their lofty seeding. Three years in the past, Virginia’s model was by no means going to translate to success in a three-week, single elimination event.
Pretty or unfairly, Gonzaga remains to be a program from a mid-major convention that may by no means obtain the standing of being a school hoops powerhouse as a result of they’ll by no means get the job carried out when the stakes are the best.
Perhaps that adjustments in time. Perhaps it doesn’t. All we all know for now’s that it’s undoubtedly not altering earlier than 2023.