2013 NCAA Tournament: Five Teams That Could Beat Gonzaga
Five Teams That Could Beat Gonzaga
Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0 WCC) has certainly had a season of firsts: first West Coast Conference team to be ranked No. 1, first team in Washington to have a No. 1 ranking and first No. 1 seed to have five teams in their own bracket that could likely dominate them.
Since gaining the top ranking in college basketball, Gonzaga apologists have already begun planning the parade for America's Cinderella in beautiful (cough) Spokane, Wash. Amidst the shimmering hair of Naismish College Player of the Year award contender Kyle Olynyk, confetti will fall from the heavens.
The Gonzaga faithful will most definitely resort to claiming high RPI and BPI rankings, but what is more apparent is their inability to win when it matters. An errant three-pointer against Oklahoma State would have left the Bulldogs with an 0-3 record versus top 25 teams at seasons end. Beating up on Pepperdine and Portland twice each season doesn't earn you any merit.
Where does this sense of entitlement come from? It's not because of jaw-dropping wins or marquee match-ups. Like any strong mid-major, Gonzaga does have a chance to do something special in the NCAA Tournament, but that will be nothing short of a miracle. The Bulldogs do not possess the talent necessary to win a NCAA Championship and don't even deserve the respect that comes with the No. 1 seed.
Not only will the Bulldogs fall short of their national championship aspirations, but this Cinderella won't even make it to the Sweet 16. Here are the five teams that could likely derail Gonzaga on the pursuit of the impossible:
San Diego State (probable 8th seed)
On the back of junior guard Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State has emerged as a legitimate threat in the west region. Olynyk is having a remarkable season for the Bulldogs, averaging 17.7 points per game with seven rebounds per game while shooting nearly 70 percent. Meanwhile, in a much better conference against much taller and faster opponents, Franklin is averaging 17.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 assists per game and is shooting 40 percent from the field. Statistically, Franklin, who is nowhere on the radar for player of the year awards, is having a better season than Olynyk. Can we throw out the narrative that no team has an answer to Gonzaga's 7-footer? The two teams will likely meet in the second round, barring an SDSU loss to Cincinnati. San Diego State is a team anchored on senior leadership, matching up with a rather unexperienced Bulldogs roster. The Aztecs enter the NCAA tournament with better preparation against powerful teams (New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV) as well.
Arizona (probable 4th seed)
Not only do the Wildcats have an answer for Olynyk in the post with PAC-12 Player of the Year candidate Solomon Hill, but Arizona also possesses brilliant guard play from Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson in the backcourt. Though San Diego State would be a grinding match-up for Gonzaga that could go either way, Arizona would leave the Bulldogs dragging their tails home.
New Mexico (probable 3rd seed)
Gonzaga isn't the only team with a dominant seven-footer. Alex Kirk is part of the reason New Mexico has been able to run through one of the up and coming conferences in the Mountain West. The Lobos wouldn't meet Gonzaga until the Final Four, but with Kirk in hand, Olynyk would be forced to shoot from the perimeter for the Bulldogs.
Michigan (probable 2nd seed)
If the Lobos don't make it past Michigan, the Wolverines are just as capable of beating Gonzaga in the Final Four. Michigan has survived Big 10 play with only five losses and they sit as the seventh best team in the country. The Wolverines don't miss open shots and that's reflected by their 50 percent field goal percentage. If Michigan can handle Michigan State, Ohio State and Minnesota, it doesn't look like Gonzaga will be anything different. Oh, and did I mention Trey Burke?
Ohio State (probable 4th seed)
The Buckeyes are strong on both sides of the court and are finally gaining some momentum before the Big 10 Conference tournament begins. If Ohio State escapes Assembly Hall with a victory over Indiana to end the season, or even a respectable effort, the Buckeyes could make another run for the final four once the NCAA tournament gets underway.
At this point of the season, I don't think any team needs to be afraid of Gonzaga. They've played out their schedule and won the games they were "supposed" to win, but the lack of competition in the WCC and their record against top 25 teams in no way prepares them for the deep west region. It's the NCAA tournament, not the second game of the season against Loyola Marymount.