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Predicting how far the Zags will run

The bracket is set, and here is how far we think Gonzaga will go.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs begin their 21st-consecutive trip the NCAA Tournament tomorrow with some of the highest aspirations in program history. The Gonzaga Bulldogs hit the lofty No. 1 AP ranking at two separate points this season, and earned the third No. 1 seed in school history.

March Madness is dubbed that for a reason, however, and as much as we’d like to think the Zags will be coasting their way on into April, match-ups will determine how far the Zags proceed.

That said, it hasn’t stopped most of us for predicting what we think is going to happen, and a lot us think great things are going to happen.

Arden Cravalho: Alright, we’re finally here. Right off the top, of course I got Gonzaga winning it all this year. The West Region is the toughest side of the bracket in my mind but if there’s any team up for the challenge, it would be the Bulldogs. The most complete roster in all of college basketball can compete with anyone of the #2 through #16 seeds in the West. You will have to keep an eye out for all the ACC teams though. Definitely the most competitive conference entering this year’s tournament. Syracuse and their zone is a tough 2nd round draw. Florida State is an even tougher Sweet 16 matchup. I already mentioned before that the Seminoles have 7 returning players that played serious minutes in that win over Gonzaga last March but the Bulldogs didn’t have a healthy Killian Tillie back then. This year will be different. As for the Elite Eight, I got Gonzaga versus Nevada with the Zags over the Wolfpack.

My Final Four teams are Duke versus Gonzaga and Tennessee versus Kentucky. You already know what happened in the first matchup against the Blue Devils and that was without Tillie. Crandall was also still getting used to the Gonzaga game plan at the time. Plus, Duke had a fully healthy roster and Gonzaga still managed to pull out the victory. Gonzaga wins it over Duke for the second time this season and earns a rematch against a team the Zags should’ve beaten in Phoenix, the Tennessee Volunteers. That revenge game will be oh’ so sweet in Gonzaga’s favor. There you have it. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are going all the way this year.

Agedude: Gonzaga will make it to the Final Four. Why? Think about this year’s team compared to the teams losing to Syracuse and Florida State. When the Zags lost to Syracuse three years ago, the ball handlers to break the press were freshman Perk, Melson, EMac, Draino, Wiltjer and Sabonis. Not guys I associate with dribbling prowess. This season, two 5th year senior point guards and Norvell to bring the ball up along with Rui, Clarke and Tillie all good ball handling bigs. This team’s ability to break the press, distribute the ball run the break and score in transition will frustrate schools like Syracuse and possibly Texas Tech.

Last year against Florida State after Tillie went down, the bench was Kispert, Jeremy Jones and Larsen. The starters averaged over 36 minutes of playing time this game against a 10-deep FSU. They just couldn’t hang. This year’s team has the skill and the depth. Tille, Crandall, and 5th year senior Jones can all effectively contribute for 20 minutes each. Even Petrusev as the 9th player could possibly contribute quality minutes. A more dynamic starting 5 and a much better bench will handle whoever the Zags will play in Anaheim.

Although the Zags are my pick, the West Region seems the most likely for upsets and a potential Cinderella. Would anyone be shocked to see Texas Tech, Buffalo or Nevada come out of the bottom half of the bracket? Could Ja Morant lead Murray State on a Davidson-type run?

Let the excitement begin!

Peter: Presuming the Gonzaga Bulldogs make it out of the second round (they will), I think this team goes to the Final Four -- and possibly beyond, depending on who the kings are of the other regions. A potential second round matchup of either Syracuse or Baylor makes me gag a little. Syracuse, obviously because of terrible memories from not that long ago, and Baylor, because they are the second-best offensive rebounding squad in the country (and Gonzaga isn’t that good at defensive rebounding). After that, however, the Zags biggest name opponents are Michigan and Texas Tech, two teams whose specialities are in defense.

We’ve seen the Gonzaga offense falter basically once this season, and that was in the WCC Tournament championship against Saint Mary’s. That terrible of a game is not going to happen again, and the Zags have too many weapons for the defenses of Michigan and Texas Tech to swallow. Michigan does not pressure the ball or dominate with interior disruptors, they just play all around good team defense. Gonzaga can push past that. Texas Tech might be a bit more of an issue, but at the end of the day, I think the talents of Perkins, Clarke, Hachimura, and Norvell will be more than most teams can handle.

Steven: I am with the group here and believe this Gonzaga team is well-equipped to face these elite defenses and get to the Final Four. The helpful thing is that Syracuse, Texas Tech, and Michigan all have thoroughly inconsistent offenses, and sometimes they are straight up bad. In this day and age, teams with elite offenses and good defenses win national titles, not the other way around. With a healthy Killian Tillie and Rui running the middle of the zone, I think this team will do just fine against Syracuse, especially with a hobbled Tyus Battle. Michigan can’t shoot from deep and has little front court depth. Texas Tech will give Gonzaga a good run because they have a nice front court and an elite wing scorer. But Florida State is the toughest matchup. They have so much length and athleticism to disrupt Gonzaga’s offense. But they go ice cold offensively and have a propensity for turnovers and bad shots, which will lead to run outs for Gonzaga. I also don’t think they get to Gonzaga. I have the Zags beating ‘Cuse then Marquette then Texas Tech to get to the Final Four.

Keith: Count on Gonzaga to be in Minnesota. The West is a tricky region, for all the reasons already stated above so I won’t regurgitate them here, but where each team excels in one or two areas of the game—Gonzaga excels at them all. Yes, there are some strong defensive teams in the West, but Gonzaga has an outstanding offense that is difficult to prepare for in the short turnaround that the tournament requires. Don’t just take my word for it, though. After Duke’s loss to Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational Final, Coach K remarked “Gonzaga’s a team you would like four days of preparation for. They do so many things . . . they’re strong, they’re old, they’re unselfish and they play their butts off.” FiveThirtyEight gives Gonzaga the third highest probability to reach the national championship of any team in the field at 26%. I expect the Zags to get there after knocking off Duke (again), and then they’ll cut down the nets against Tennessee in the final. So let it be written, so let it be done.