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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Blaming Gonzaga’s WCC affiliation for NCAA championship loss is a disservice to basketball — and logic

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What faculty basketball wants proper now: followers within the stands coaches out on the recruiting path, watching five-star prospects and undiscovered gems on the Nike Peach Jam, and groups touring to play street video games with out concern they’ll be known as off due to contact tracing. Hopefully the game will have the ability to return to all of those important components very quickly.

What faculty basketball doesn’t want, ever: faculty soccer’s galling elitism.

The NCAA Event is an egalitarian enterprise. For all of the carping about how mid-major applications don’t get a good deal, they’re assured every year roughly one-third of the sphere — one-third of the alternatives to compete for a nationwide championship. Some, such because the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, advance extraordinarily close to to claiming that title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs got here so shut so typically and invested a lot in pursuing excellence they have been capable of outgrow the mid-major label.

For all they accomplish, although, there nonetheless are some prepared to destroy logic within the try to shove them again into that class.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga of how tough it is to win it — and them — all

The Zags proceed to compete within the West Coast Convention. They’ve received or shared its regular-season championship in 20 of the previous 21 seasons. They haven’t missed an NCAA Event since 1998.

And if that was the place all of it stopped — getting into the event, going residence rapidly — maybe there could be a case that remaining as a WCC member is an obstacle that can’t be overcome. The Zags nonetheless have been alive in March Insanity 2021, although, because it steamrolled into April for the Remaining 4.

They nonetheless have been alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, carrying an ideal document into tipoff of the NCAA championship recreation. It was the second time since 2017 they obtained that far within the event. They got here near profitable the title in 2017, a one-point recreation towards North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining turning right into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags have been crushed soundly, this time, by a rare Baylor staff that carried out on the peak of its recreation.

Lots of people watched what occurred and got here to this conclusion: Taking part in within the WCC didn’t put together the Zags for the event. They weren’t battle-tested. That’s why they misplaced. Not the ten 3-pointers the Bears made, or their 48.5 offensive rebound share, or Gonzaga All-American Corey Kispert’s all of a sudden wayward capturing.

However no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.

Mercifully, nobody amongst America’s sporting media was silly sufficient to suggest this idea to Gonzaga coach Mark Few following the loss to Baylor, so I’ve no quotes from him to brighten this column. I’ve solely info, which ought to scream loudly to everybody that “battle-tested” is a myth. The Zags’ problem in profitable the NCAA championships comes all the way down to — and this can be laborious to know — it’s tough to win an NCAA championship.

MORE: Breaking down the 1-minute, 36-second stretch that ended Gonzaga’s title hopes

Since 2015, when the Zags superior to the Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as their star participant, Gonzaga has received extra NCAA Event video games than every other program.

Its 20 NCAA victories are greater than two-time champion Villanova (17), greater than North Carolina (16), greater than Duke (15), greater than Kansas and Kentucky (13 every) and greater than Wisconsin (10). That’s proper. You line up the blue bloods, the latest major-conference powers, and Gonzaga’s NCAA Event success — whereas supposedly being hindered by the WCC — exceeds everybody.

In that six-tournament interval, it took the eventual NCAA champion to eradicate them 3 times and a Remaining 4 entrant to eradicate them twice. They’ve reached two Remaining Fours in that interval. Solely Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State can say the identical. These are among the groups Gonzaga has defeated in that point: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six consecutive Candy 16s. No different energetic faculty staff can match that streak. Actually, because the event growth to 64 groups in 1985, solely three different instances has such a streak been achieved: twice by Duke, and as soon as by North Carolina.

If the Zags will not be correctly ready for the NCAA Event, then who on Earth is?

MORE: Baylor ends Gonzaga’s perfect season with a Texas-sized storybook finish

The 2 highest-rated conferences in line with the NCAA’s NET system in 2020-21 have been the Huge Ten and Huge 12. They produced 16 NCAA event bids between them, however solely two groups that superior so far as the Candy 16. Their expertise means that being “battle-tested” truly could be a detriment in pursuit of a championship ring.

The dismissal of Gonzaga is a product of the elitism that bleeds over from faculty soccer, which is so entrenched in its aristocracy that it refuses even to permit applications to earn championship alternatives on the sphere, whether or not they come from the wealthiest conferences or past. Within the School Soccer Playoff invitational, groups don’t earn their positions within the event. They’re, universally, chosen.

A Gonzaga by no means would stand an opportunity in such an operation, however the Zags are welcome in faculty basketball. The sport’s most rational followers perceive their worth, their expertise and their achievement.

This is appropriate. It’s actually not difficult. The info can’t be disputed, solely ignored.

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