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There’s basically one thing you need to know about this tournament: Gonzaga. If you haven’t gotten a good look at the Bulldogs this year, now is the time before the real tournament starts.
Gonzaga has been good before, but they’ve never been this good as seen with their No. 1 ranking. This will be their 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and they’ve only made it to the Elite Eight once, way back in 1999, their first appearance in this streak. They have coasted through the WCC this year without much competition.
Saint Mary’s is right behind them with only two conference losses, but those are both to the Zags. Not to mention the Gaels last loss happened to be their only one at home all season and it was by 17 points to Gonzaga.
BYU and Santa Clara don’t have bad squads by any means; they just don’t have what it takes to put them over the edge.
Record: 29-2, 16-0
No matter what people say, the Zags deserve a 1-seed, as long as they win the WCC tourney which they should. They currently have only two losses on the year and while their conference may not be the hardest, it’s not easy going undefeated in any conference.
Their losses are against respectable teams in Illinois and Butler. What people are failing to forget are the solid wins Gonzaga does have. They beat Oklahoma and Kansas State on neutral courts and won at Oklahoma State. All three of those Big 12 schools will be in the Big Dance. They beat the Sooners 72-47 which was their worst loss of the season.
Kelly Olynyk has come out of nowhere after red shirting last season and is now in talks of being the Player of the Year in all of college basketball. The big man is averaging 17.7 points per game to go with seven boards per game. He’s shooting a ridiculous 67 percent from the field. With him and Elias Harris down low, not many teams have the bigs to stop both of them. On the outside, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. can both hit the three-ball with consistency.
While a lot of people will be marking the Bulldogs for an early round loss in their brackets, it might be worthwhile to check them out in this tourney to see just how good they can be.
Record: 26-5, 14-2
The Gaels are currently projected to be a 10-seed and will most likely end up there unless they can win this tournament. Saint Mary’s looked to be having a down season with early November losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. Maybe they weren’t ready for those games or they just didn’t have much motivation, but they ended up beating Pacific by 28 points in their next meeting a month later, a 38-point turnaround.
Led by senior Matthew Dellavedova, the Gaels plan on getting back to the winning side of the things in the NCAA Tourney. Their last win came in Dellavedova’s freshman season when they made it to the Sweet 16 as a 10-seed. A similar route will be needed this year.
In their last out-of-conference game, they handled Creighton for an eight-point win which happened to be their only win against an RPI Top 50 team all year.
Maybe the Gaels will pull off the upset in the Championship game over Gonzaga, but that seems unlikely at this point. Like many teams, they don’t have the guys down low to deal with Olynyk and Harris. Gonzaga shouldn’t have too many problems in this tournament, much like how their season has gone in the WCC.
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