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NCAA Basketball Gonzaga BulldogsMarch MadnessWCC Basketball

Gonzaga Bulldogs Nearly Overwhelmed By The Moment In NCAA Tournament Opener

Steve Dykes – USA TODAY Sports Images

It almost happened.

A No. 1 seed almost fell harder than a tree being chopped down in the forest.

Gonzaga came dangerously close to making the wrong kind of history in what has been a historic season for the Bulldogs.

At the end of the day, Gonzaga, a top seed in this NCAA tournament, avoided a loss to a No. 16 seed. I won’t say the Bulldogs beat Southern on Thursday. I’ll just say they survived with a 64-58 win.

No matter how close the game was, though, all that matters is that you survive and advance. That is, after all, what March Madness is all about. For Gonzaga, the role of being the big dog in the tournament is new to it. The Bulldogs are no longer the team being hunted. They are the ones being hunted like a character in Hunger Games.

Sometimes the spotlight can be cruel to a top team. It can overwhelm a team and leave it hanging out to dry.

The Bulldogs were almost overwhelmed by the moment, almost crushed by the pressure that comes with being a team with a target on its back. Give Gonzaga credit, though. They hung on in a game they easily could have lost, and that takes poise and mental toughness.

The Bulldogs had both on their side when it mattered most.

I just don’t know if they can keep it going. I don’t know if they can learn to handle the spotlight on a tournament trail that will only become more difficult to navigate going forward.

Maybe the Bulldogs will survive and have a shot at a national title. But if there is a No. 1 seed out there that could go down before Atlanta, it’s Gonzaga.

Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.