“They always choke in March!”
“They haven’t played anyone, they don’t deserve a 1 seed!”
“They’re overrated because they play in a bad conference!”
“This Final Four shouldn’t count because they had an easy path!”
The list goes on and on, but by now you’ve probably heard someone spew something close to one of these takes. The disparaging of the Zags by comment sections and egg avi Twitter has become a March tradition just like filling out a terrible bracket has. Every year we hear the same thing, and every year the takes would heat up incrementally as the Zags went home with nary a Final Four to show for it.
But this year, Gonzaga’s biggest critics should be silenced. The Bulldogs boast a 36-1 record, which means they have lost only one game. A single game. That is incredibly hard to do no matter what conference you play in. They’ve been the top rated team in KenPom for nearly two months, and would be undefeated if not for a cold shooting night in the last game of the regular season. You’d think that finally reaching the Final Four would be enough for the vocal contingent that is hell-bent on discrediting every accomplishment, right? Wrong.
For example, let’s check in on noted take-haver Doug Gottleib and see what he thinks about the Zags’ Final Four run:
History won't care about the near collapse vs Northwestern, surviving WVU and beating an 11 seed to get to the Final Four— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 25, 2017
This line of thinking is what makes the Zags’ lack of respect so frustrating. Based on the seeding of teams by the Selection Committee, Gonzaga played the toughest route possible up until their matchup with Xavier. And, despite being an 11 seed, Xavier vanquished 6 seed Maryland, 3 seed Florida State, and 2 seed Arizona. They weren’t a pushover by any means, and Gonzaga disposed of them with ease. But that still isn’t enough for the Gonzaga haters.
Here are some teams that aren’t in the Final Four: Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Louisville, UCLA, Kentucky. Why is Gonzaga still being discredited for their accomplishment when people make excuses for those powerhouses?
“Villanova should have never been matched up with Wisconsin in the second round!”
“Kentucky had the toughest region!”
“Duke basically had a road game in the second round!”
No, if Gonzaga finally wants to quiet the crowd that is just itching for another reason to spew their nonsense, the Bulldogs need to finish the job by winning the National Championship.
On Saturday, Gonzaga will face the darling of the tournament so far,7 seed South Carolina. I can see the takes now if the Bulldogs were to fall to the Gamecocks.
“Can’t get it done when it matters!”
“It was a fluke!”
“This was their chance! They won’t get this lucky again!”
And what if they beat the Gamecocks and advance to the championship game? Well, expect a lot of these takes:
This means Gonzaga can reach the title game by beating a 16 seed, an 8 seed, a 4 seed, an 11 seed and a 7 seed. What a draw.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) March 26, 2017
The only thing that can save us from these abominable takes is Gonzaga cutting down the nets.
The Zags have been the best team all season, and it’s time for them to back it up. Taking care of business against South Carolina is the first step, and then they can their long awaited shot in the national title game against either Oregon or North Carolina.
Beating Oregon would give the Zags bragging rights for West Coast superiority, and a win over the Tar Heels would come against one of college basketball’s most storied programs. But no matter how they do it or who they beat, a national championship would silence the critics once and for all. And that’s why Gonzaga needs to finish the job.