The 2013 version of the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team is without a doubt the best the small Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington has ever seen– and they’ve had some gems over the past decade.
It’s official this morning that the ‘Zags are the new No. 1 in Division I basketball, earning 51 of the 65 first place votes available. It’s a feat of firsts for Mark Few’s squad who is off to a scorching 29-2 start overall, including a perfect 16-0 start to the West Coast Conference slate.
Gonzaga has never been ranked No. 1 in college basketball in the history of the program, but the history-making doesn’t stop there– they reached No. 2 for the first time in school history just a week ago.
The ‘Zags are also the first team in the history of the state of Washington to be ranked 1st in the country, and also the first team in the WCC to hold the honor since the San Francisco Dons in 1977– led by All-American center Bill Cartwright, who also went on to star with the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era.
The only two blemishes on a near-perfect start for the Bulldogs came in a one-point heartbreaking loss to the Butler Bulldogs on January 19th in Indianapolis, and a 11-point setback against the Illinois Fighting Illini back on December 8th in Champaign.
It’s reasonable to assume the ‘Zags will have little trouble running the table in the WCC Conference Tournament, and could easily be at 32-2 at tourney’s end, making it virtually impossible for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to not hand them at No. 1 seed in one of the regions on Selection Sunday March 17th.
Outstanding scoring balance among the team’s three key players — led by center Kelly Olynyk at 17.7 points per game — has allowed Gonzaga to consistently wear down opponents, and making it look rather easy in the process.
Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos have been solid as well, and are just as capable as Olynyk at breaking out and having huge games from one evening to the next. Any team that shoots 51% from the field, 37.5% from three, and 71% from the free throw line is going to win a ton of games — and the ‘Zags are right there.
A little word of advice to this year’s tournament field:
Gonzaga is no longer the cute little mid-major Cinderella story.
They are elite.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.