Gonzaga came into March Madness this year having not lost since mid January to Butler, with their only other loss coming to Illinois in December. Record wise, they are one of the most deserving teams in the nation of a number one seed. However, coming out of the traditionally weak west coast conference, and not ranking near the top of the nation in any major categories other than being 3rd in field goal percentage, many were shocked when the NCAA announced that they would be the top team in the West bracket this year.
Being the one seed all but guarantees you a win in the first round, but not much else. Being a number one seed isn’t a ticket to the Final Four by any means, evidenced by the fact that only one time in the history of the tournament has all four number one seeds reached the Final Four. However, the West bracket is easily the weakest bracket of this year’s tournament, with the only real threats to Gonzaga’s Final Four dreams being Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Kansas State. At the time of this article however, both Wisconsin and Kansas State have already been upset in the first round. This leaves only the number 2 seed Ohio State with a chance to defeat Gonzaga.
This matchup would occur in the Elite Eight, due to the format of the tournament, on March 30 similar to a home game, as Ohio State fans would have to travel much further than Gonzaga fans.
The crowd won’t be Gonzaga’s only advantage, as this year’s Ohio State team is nothing more than a product of the strong Big Ten Conference. Ranked number 7 in the AP poll at the end of the season, the Buckeyes don’t rank in the top half of the country in any major offensive category, but play a stingy defense, allowing less than 60 points per game. However, Gonzaga is one of the best in the nation in field goal percentage, which means that they don’t take many bad shots, which can counteract the otherwise lockdown defense of Ohio State. While it may not be a blowout, I believe that Gonzaga will be able to shoot their way to a Final Four appearance.
Once they get to Atlanta, the Bulldogs will be two short games away from a championship, the first in school history. The favorites out of the other brackets to make it to Atlanta are probably Duke, Kansas, and Miami. While these other teams are amongst the top in the nation, they come out of three very tough regions. By the time that the Final Four rolls around, they will have used up much of their energy just getting there, whereas Gonzaga will have only had one true test. This will allow the Bulldogs to outwork the remaining competition, and coast to a championship.