We’ll never know how this season’s Gonzaga men’s basketball team would have fared in the NCAA tournament, but I suspect there are a lot of opinions.
March Madness was canceled this year as the nation attempts to limit the spread of coronavirus, meaning we won’t be crowning a national champion this season. But would the Bulldogs have been the ones cutting down the nets?
This was not supposed to be a great year for the Zags. Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed last year and reached the Elite Eight, but that team was dismantled as it lost its top four scorers — Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Zach Norvell all left for the NBA, while longtime point guard Josh Perkins graduated.
But Gonzaga exceeded all expectations. The Bulldogs finished the season 31-2, placing first in the WCC during the regular season and winning the WCC tournament. The team’s only losses came to Michigan at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 29 and at BYU on Feb. 22. Both those teams are at-large NCAA tournament teams, unless Michigan had gone on to win the Big Ten tournament to earn an automatic bid.
As a result, Gonzaga finished the season at or near the top of all the rankings. The Bulldogs were No. 2 in both the Associated Press and coaches polls, and Gonzaga was No. 1 in the NCAA’s NET rankings (the updated version of the RPI). The Zags were also No. 2 in the KenPom rankings. So every method of evaluation had Gonzaga as one of the nation’s top teams.
Looking at the makeup of the team one can understand why. This was a team with tremendous balance. It could go inside with Filip Petrusev, it had an inside/outside threat in Killian Tille, it had a 3-point marksman in Corey Kispert, it had an athletic two-guard in Joel Ayayi, and it had a heady point guard in Ryan Woolridge. The bench wasn’t deep, but it contained two quality players in energetic big man Drew Timme and all-purpose guard Admon Gilder. That’s seven players who all averaged more than 20 minutes a game and were all essentially double-digit scorers (Timme came up just short at 9.8 points per game).
And in this age of one-and-dones, this was a highly-experienced team as Tille, Woolridge and Gilder are all seniors.
Now, Gonzaga is always something of a wild card because once WCC play begins it’s difficult to get perspective on how the Bulldogs would stack up against the teams from the power conferences. This issue was exacerbated by the fact that Gonzaga, which usually plays a loaded non-conference schedule, played a relatively tame one this year. However, the Zags have been consistent performers in the NCAA tournament recently, reaching at least the Sweet 16 every year since 2015.
This also may have been a year where the national title was there for the taking. This was considered perhaps the most wide-open NCAA tournament we’ve ever seen, with no team really standing above the fray. Maybe Gonzaga could have emerged as that team.
So what do you think? How would Gonzaga have fared in this year’s NCAA tournament? Let us know here: