The Gonzaga Bulldogs is not going to be the champions of the 2021-22 males’s faculty basketball season.
Alternate lede: It’s open season for Gonzaga haters for at the very least one other 12 months.
The Zags, the NCAA match’s No. 1 general seed for a second consecutive 12 months, had been knocked off by fourth-seeded Arkansas within the Candy 16 Thursday evening, 74-68.
The outcome was no fluke.
Eric Musselman’s crew 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 encircling areas, that would be the huge takeaway from Thursday evening’s upset in San Francisco. Just about all over the place else, the main focus will lie with the opposite aspect.
Gonzaga is simply the fourth program within the historical past of males’s faculty 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 lively streak within the nation (Kansas and Michigan State are the one packages with longer streaks). They’re the one program in addition to Kansas that has gained at the very least 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 turning into faculty basketball’s first unbeaten nationwide champion since 1976, Gonzaga was as soon as once more again because the NCAA match’s No. 1 general seed. They had 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 had been No. 1 in just about each faculty hoops metric in existence, they usually had two nationwide Participant of the Yr candidates in Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren.
All that tells one aspect of the story. The responses to any tweet or Instagram publish from a serious nationwide model about Gonzaga inform the opposite.
They don’t play in an actual convention
They all the time 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 gained’t be the final crew standing, you’ll be able to solely anticipate these feedback to accentuate. That’s the way in which this works.
Thursday’s loss was totally different than the March (or April) heartbreak of Gonzaga’s different latest runs. For all of the speak 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 prime 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 recent wound.
“After per week or so we’ll look again and we’ll be capable to — it’s arduous,” a dejected Gonzaga head coach Mark Few mentioned 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 preserve it going, so I believe we’re slightly bit in shock.”
Shocked could be how the Gonzaga gamers will really feel for some time, however a wholesome chunk of the sports activities world who watched Few’s crew play Thursday evening would possible let you know (at the very least now) that they weren’t even mildly stunned.
Gonzaga’s first NCAA match 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 discovered who Gonzaga was, and this system hasn’t missed a Massive Dance since.
Someplace between then and now, the little program that would grew to become the overrated program that can’t and by no means will. The latter title will stick for at the very least one other 12 months.
In faculty basketball, the narrative stays the narrative till essentially the most seismic of shifts explodes the narrative into 1,000,000 indistinguishable items. The anecdotal will all the time trump the tangible on this sport, and there’s no gradual stigma shed. Your status is your status 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, nevertheless it’s additionally a direct reflection of the NCAA match and the unabated energy it wields.
Thirty years in the past, Mike Krzyzewski was 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 may by no means make it out of the match’s first weekend regardless of their lofty seeding. Three years in the past, Virginia’s type was by no means going to translate to success in a three-week, single elimination match.
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 university hoops powerhouse as a result of they’ll by no means get the job achieved when the stakes are the best.
Perhaps that modifications in time. Perhaps it doesn’t. All we all know for now’s that it’s undoubtedly not altering earlier than 2023.