We've spent a lot of time over the last few days discussing Gonzaga's possible seed assignment in this year's tournament bracket, and the best possible seeding for a deep run. One part of that discussion has now been answered, as the Selection Committee has designated the Zags as an 11-seed.
What does that mean for the Zags? I took a lot at the historical success of 11-seeds in the tournament. Since the tournament expanded to include 11-seeds, teams with that ranking have an overall win percentage of 34.5% (play-in games between 11-seeds are not counted, for obvious reasons). Keep in mind, that includes overall tournament performance.
In opening round matchups against 6-seeds, the 11-team has won 34% of the time. For teams that advance to a second-round game, they beat 3-seeds at a 28.9% rate, while boasting a 100% record (5-0) against 14-seeds that pulled off a first round upset. If they make it beyond the opening weekend, an 11-seed has only beaten a 2-seed once (1-13), but are undefeated against 7 and 10-seeds (5-0 combined).
While admittedly a long shot, the Final Four is not an unattainable goal for an 11-seed. The following three teams all made it to the season's final weekend: the 1986 LSU Tigers; 2006 George Mason Patriots; and most recently the 2011 VCU Rams led by Shaka Smart. The five year gaps between the last two teams makes me think we're due for another one in 2016...
It's important to remember that regardless of what the statistics say, those teams are not this Gonzaga squad. However, I do think the stats are interesting for the sake of historical perspective, and for purposes of framing current expectations. With Gonzaga's current run of form, I don't think it's that homerish to label them as an unusually strong 11-seed, although Seton Hall is certainly a formidable opponent that just knocked off highly-touted Villanova. While an 11-seed has never won a national championship, maybe this is the year a team bucks the odds and makes magic happen!