Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY
Revealed 12: 33 a.m. ET April 6, 2021
Gonzaga entered Monday night’s nationwide championship recreation against Baylor looking to change into the first workforce in more than 45 years to pass unbeaten. Instead, the Bears’ 86-70 victory prevents the Bulldogs from securing a assign in college basketball history.
“I by no map felt be pleased we performed with that weight all twelve months,” stated Gonzaga coach Imprint Few. “I continually felt be pleased we had been the aggressor. We accurate ran into a workforce tonight where they had been the aggressor, clearly. That set us back on our heels on each ends.”
This coronavirus-influenced season didn’t include the long-awaited breakthrough at the finish of the Bulldogs’ surge to nationwide prominence beneath Few, who has overseen the program’s metamorphosis from vague Cinderella to powerhouse.
While missing the finishing contact on the nationwide championship, Gonzaga could perchance restful restful be distinguished as one of the best teams in men’s NCAA Match history to no longer win all of it, even supposing that is a reward the Bulldogs would care to steer clear of.
For several reasons, Gonzaga without inconvenience ranks amongst the best non-champions. Here’s how the Bulldogs’ résumé stacks up:
Gonzaga virtually went unbeaten
A number of teams got right here shut — 1991 UNLV and 2015 Kentucky lost in the Final Four — but no longer since Larry Fowl-led Indiana Advise in 1979 had a workforce entered the championship recreation unbeaten since Indiana finished the remaining supreme season in 1976. For another twelve months, the checklist of packages to pass undefeated during the tournament technology remains the Hoosiers, UCLA (four instances), North Carolina and San Francisco. Perfection is so uncommon in sports activities, especially in men’s basketball, that an unblemished file assures a workforce will forever be mentioned in the same breath as the best in the history of the sport.
And merely about did so during the stylish tournament technology
Here’s why a long time maintain handed with out a workforce matching Indiana’s fulfillment: In consequence of or no longer it is exhausting! And or no longer it is even more difficult during the stylish technology of the men’s tournament, which expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and grew to 68 teams in 2011. The Hoosiers’ title got right here against a 32-workforce bracket. UCLA’s back-to-back unbeaten campaigns in 1971-72 and 1972-73 got right here as segment of a 25-workforce discipline. Excellent seasons from the Bruins in 1964 and 1966-67, the Tar Heels in 1956-57 and San Francisco in 1955-56 got right here with anywhere from 22 to 25 teams in the bracket.
Now not to point out whereas playing by means of COVID-19
Instead of being passe to examine Gonzaga’s assign in the championship recreation, that this workforce merely about ran the desk amid the COVID-19 pandemic handiest strengthens the Bulldogs’ credentials. Some of the biggest, most foolproof packages in the sport had been derailed by the coronavirus, most particularly Duke and Kentucky. In the period in-between, the Bulldogs weaved by means of a midseason quit to workforce activities and didn’t skip a beat.
The roster is loaded with NBA expertise
The Bulldogs maintain by no map been short on expertise. This twelve months’s workforce is merely the most talented of Few’s tenure, led by the that you just presumably can imagine top overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft in freshman star Jalen Suggs and another seemingly lottery pick in sharpshooting senior Corey Kispert. In truth, the entire starting 5 is destined for the NBA, with forward Drew Timme and guards Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard firmly on draft radars. In line with this sequence of established expertise and the underclassmen on the Bulldogs’ roster succesful of blossoming in higher roles, this Gonzaga roster could perchance detect even stronger in the future years; in the finish, the amount of players on NBA rosters will lend further enhance to the Bulldogs’ case for a assign in history.
Gonzaga’s been consistently correct for 20-plus years
This twelve months hasn’t been a one-off, in other phrases. Gonzaga has reached the NCAA Match in every eligible season since 1999, predating Few’s tenure by one twelve months, and improved as a minimum to the Candy 16 in each of the past six trips. The 2016-17 workforce went 37-2 and reached the championship recreation before losing 71-65 to North Carolina. Remaining twelve months’s workforce was as soon as anticipated to be one of the top overall seeds and contend for the title before the tournament was as soon as canceled as a consequence of the coronavirus. There’s nothing surprising about this twelve months’s flee at perfection — Gonzaga’s been knocking on the door of this moment for a long time.
Nothing cheap about 31-1
It be extremely uncommon for the championship recreation to honest the top two teams in the preseason Ferris Mowers Coaches Ballot. It be moreover uncommon for the recreation to honest two teams so clearly forward of the discipline: Gonzaga and Baylor entered Monday with a combined two losses, tied for the fewest of any championship-recreation matchup. The Bulldogs could’ve been picked neat by the Bears, but one recreation would no longer repeat the memoir of a season’s value of dominance. All but one of Gonzaga’s wins got right here by a double-digit margin.
Apply colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg