If you’ve been following college basketball this season than you probably stand on one side or the other of a certain argument. Either you think Gonzaga is a phony, a fraud and an undeserving top-ranked team that will be exposed come Tourney-time.
Or you think that you’ve got to respect to a team that has beaten nearly every team in its path. While the supposed “big boys” have been taken down one by one, the Bulldogs have stood tall with an impressive 29 wins on the season.
No matter which side of the argument you stand on the fact remains that Gonzaga will likely head into the NCAA Tournament with the number one ranking in all of college basketball. The question is will they be able to take advantage of that ranking and the number one seeding that will likely come with it. Are the Bulldogs for real?
That’s a very tough question to answer because whether Gonzaga fans like to hear it or not, the team has barely faced any tough competition all season. There’s almost always the dilemma of the talented team that plays in the weak conference. How can you gauge their success in terms of how they would fare against greater competition?
Well for one you can look towards their non-conference schedule. But even Gonzaga’s non-conference opponents were noticeably weak teams. If a team like Gonzaga wants respect then one could argue they should expect to have to schedule tough nationally feared opponents to have to play before entering conference play. The Bulldogs have played only two nationally ranked teams all season. One of those teams, Illinois, beat them by 11 points back on December 8th. Gonzaga managed to slip by the other one, #22 ranked Oklahoma State, by one point.
So the doubters have their reasons to be unimpressed.
But on the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the offensive efficiency of the Bulldogs. They score the 10th most points per game in the nation, move the ball around with consistency and manage to shoot an incredible 50 percent from the floor as a team.
And they are led by National Player of the Year candidate, power forward, Kelly Olynyk. While the argument that Gonzaga would not fare as well if they were facing greater competition is a valid one, many NBA pundits project Olynyk to be at least a top 20 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. The fact that people believe the Bulldogs have a player that is talented enough to play in the NBA would also imply that he is talented enough to play in any conference in the nation and therefore can compete with any team in the nation.
Ultimately, if Gonzaga wants any respect than they will have to earn it and March is the time to do it.
To many people Gonzaga will be the fun underdog looking to finally capture the respect they have been chasing all season. To others they are the little brother of college basketball waiting to be exposed by some big time programs. Either way, they’ll be worth keeping an eye on.