Shoutout to Michigan Basketball for proving how difficult it is to be the team with a target on its back. The Wolverines, who weren’t even ranked as the #1 team in the country, were starting to get some support from members of the college basketball media (looking at you, Seth Davis) to pass Gonzaga for the top spot in the rankings and the title of “best team in the country” before completely laying an egg on Tuesday night against an Illinois squad that was missing its best player. It’s one thing to climb the mountain, it’s another thing to beat everyone back in order to stay there.
It's not even that this is wrong, per se. Michigan is really, really good. Bad games happen. But a lot of folks jumped off what has been a pretty historically great Gonzaga team awfully quickly because the Zags couldn't be asked to beat Santa Clara by 55 or whatever that night.— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) March 3, 2021
On to the content:
- The New York Times’ Kurt Streeter examines how the spectre of the coronavirus hangs over Gonzaga’s national championship aspirations and the college basketball world at large as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
- NCAA.com lists the 10 schools with the best combined records in men’s and women’s basketball, and little Gonzaga comes out at No. 1 thanks to 45 combined wins between the two teams (their article incorrectly lists the GU women’s team record at 23-3 instead of 21-3. Great work all around from the GU basketball teams this season.
- ESPN breaks down some of the astounding numbers to emerge from Gonzaga’s perfect campaign to date. An interesting one—only three teams have won 21 games or more by double digits. Gonzaga owns each of those streaks courtesy of the 2016-17, 2018-19, and 2020-21 squads. Each of those teams were great, and it still breaks my heart that the 18-19 team was eliminated in the Elite 8. They were good enough to win a championship.
- Despite the hullabaloo around Michigan, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello still had the Zags at the top of his power rankings (even before Michigan’s loss to Illinois) and the favorites to win it all.
- If you’re looking for a good primer on which teams to keep an eye on during the women’s NCAA Tournament, take a look at Chantel Jennings power rankings where she has Texas A&M passing UConn for the top spot and the Zags in at No. 25.
- BRACKETOLOGY: There’s no doubt at this point that Gonzaga will be the top overall seed when it comes time to put the tournament bracket together, and will remain in that spot barring a loss in the WCC Tournament. At this point the intrigue is in how the rest of the field will fill out, and who will miss the cut (Duke!). Andy Katz’s bracket predictions has Iowa (2), Florida State (3), and Oklahoma (4) as the other top teams filling out GU’s regional with Tennessee (8) and San Diego State (9) in Gonzaga’s path. Brian Bennett thinks it will be Iowa (2), Houston (3), and Texas (4), with San Diego State (8) and Rutgers (9) as potential second round opponents. Joe Lunardi’s latest iteration has Iowa (2), Kansas (3), and Texas (4) in Gonzaga’s region with Missouri (8) and Rutgers (9) as prospective second round foes. Jerry Palm is projecting Iowa (2), Villanova (3), and Texas (4) for Gonzaga’s regional with a Rutgers (8) and San Diego State (9) tasting menu in round 2. So Iowa appears to be a lock at #2 for GU, due to the fact that there are two Big10 teams projected to be #1 seeds at the moment in Illinois and Michigan and the top four teams from a conference need to be placed in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines. Texas also appears to have a good chance of falling into Gonzaga’s region, along with San Diego State.