Don’t Trust Gonzaga This Year

Can Mark Few finally lead Gonzaga to a championship? (Wikimedia Commons)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will undoubtedly be one of the most popular picks to win March Madness this year.

Gonzaga University boasts a basketball team that has been to the “Big Dance” for 21-straight years. A 22nd trip seems to be all but a guarantee after an 18-0 start to this season.

While the Bulldogs from Spokane, Washington, seem like an enticing pick to win it all this year, you need to avoid picking them to be your champion.

It may seem crazy, but Gonzaga is a pick that is all but certain to bust your bracket should you find them in your champion spot.

History repeats itself.

It’s no secret that we see the same teams every year make deep tournament runs. Some teams – like Duke, UNC, Kentucky and Villanova – typically advance late into the bracket and are popular championship picks. 

Although Gonzaga has made the field of teams selected every year since the 1999-2000 season, they usually don’t live up to expectations.

Since 1999, the Bulldogs have only been a No. 1-4 seed just eight times. They have found themselves as a No. 1 seed just three times over this span.

Despite all of these appearances, “the Zags” have made the Sweet Sixteen or better just nine times. Gonzaga has only advanced past this round three times. 

Since 1998-1999, the Gonzaga Bulldogs make the Sweet Sixteen just 42.9% of the time, and they only advance past this stage just 14.2% of the time.

You need to be careful just far you let this team go in your bracket.

So, why does a team like Gonzaga that has just one championship appearance in its program’s history always attract so many people filling out their brackets? 

It’s simple: People crave winners.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs look like winners until you really dig into the data.

Over his time with Gonzaga, Mark Few, the head coach for the Bulldogs, is 618-124 with a winning percentage of 83.3%. However, Gonzaga isn’t playing the best competition, and this record gets inflated by playing weaker teams.

Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference (WCC), a conference comprised of schools such as Portland, St. Mary’s, Pepperdine and Santa Clara. Going back to 1998, I found only six instances in which Gonzaga did not win the WCC.

Simply put, it’s Gonzaga’s conference, and everyone else is just playing in it. 

I mean no disrespect to schools like BYU and St. Mary’s; however, they just can’t compete with the Bulldogs.

As a result, Gonzaga’s record looks incredibly impressive every season when it beats up on weak teams multiple times a year. 

This team has the luxury of playing multiple weaker schools. Teams in the Big 10 – like Ohio State or Michigan – will have to play a daunting number of challenging games this season as the Big 10 has seven teams currently in the top 25. 

Most seasons, Gonzaga gets out to a hot start, and they look like a top contender in the NCAA Tournament. However, with an inflated resume and history against them, the Bulldogs will probably find themselves falling earlier than expected and creating millions of broken brackets.

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