March Madness: Why You Should Trust Gonzaga in Your Bracket

There is a decent amount of skepticism surrounding Gonzaga going into the NCAA tournament. Even in the Zags’ home state of Washington there is skepticism. If you’re not a “Gonzaga hater” (which there are a lot of) you’ve heard the gauntlet of stories. There’s the upset losses to Nevada in 2004, the 2002 loss to Wyoming (yes, over a decade later and people are still giving the Zags flack). There’s also the loss to Wichita State as a #1 seed in 2013 as well as a lack of recent Sweet 16 appearances.

Firstly, those first two losses were 11 and 13 years ago. Gonzaga skeptics will also point to that Wichita State loss when GU was the number one team in the country. Wichita State would go on to make the Final Four that year, and they made a whopping 14 three-pointers. I don’t care what name is on the front of your jersey or what seed you have, when another team makes 14 threes, it’s going to be tough to beat them.

The most ridiculous thing about this Gonzaga criticism is that this is a different year with a completely different team. None of those previous teams featured All-American candidate Kyle Wiltjer or Byron Wesley or future lottery-pick Domantas Sabonis.

Gonzaga has been given the #2 seed in the South Region. Here’s why you should trust them to make a deep run in your bracket.

  • Close to Home

Gonzaga is playing across the state in Seattle, Washington for the first two rounds of the tourney (assuming they beat North Dakota State). Potential opponents in Seattle beyond NDSU include Davidson and Iowa, the winner of the game will likely take on the Bulldogs. Additionally, the Zags have a large fan base in Western Washington and play an annual game in Seattle every season as part of the non-conference schedule every year since 2003. Those games are played in Key Arena, the site of GU’s first two games of the tournament.

  • Familiarity

Of the other 16 teams in the South Region, GU has played and beaten three of them. The Zags shellacked #6 seed SMU 72-56 while they also earned wins over #8 seed Saint John’s and #11 seed UCLA. The Zags will certainly feel confident if they face any of those three in later rounds.

  • Balance

Gonzaga boasts the most efficient offense in the country. The team shoots an absurd 52.4% from the field. They rank sixth in assists per game. The Zags also are tenth in the country in points per game with an average of 79.1 points scored per contest—they hold opponents to 60.9 points per game.

  • Depth

The Bulldogs feature six players who average at least 8.2 points per contest. Kyle Wiltjer leads the team with 16.7 points per game and recently dropped 45 (yes, that’s right 45 against Pacific). Byron Wesley (10.8 points per game) and Gary Bell Jr. (8.2) are two the low-scoring starters, but each could easily average 15 points a contest on a team with less offensive firepower and weapons. Reserve guards Kyle Dranginis, Silas Melson and Eric McClellan are all capable of hitting double figures in a hurry.

  • Size

Gonzaga is one of the few teams that can legitimately challenge Kentucky. Not only can the Zags’ guards play with anyone, their size and skillset would cause Kentucky problems in a potential matchup. Sabonis and Wiltjer both stand at 6’10” while Przemek Karnowski is a massive human being at 7’1”.  All three offer varying skill sets that will cause any team fits.

What We Learned From the Seahawks Win, Plus a Playoff Preview and the Great NFL Coaching Purge

Will the record holder for most touchdown passes in a rookie season please stand up?

Russell Wilson continued to scribble out portions of the Seahawks’ record book, and the NFL’s for that matter, and write himself in. Wilson now has tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not something people would have expected for a Quarterback who was selected after five other QBs, one of whom isn’t even starting (Brock Oswiler is Manning’s backup.)

It Doesn’t Come Cheap

(That sounds nothing like any kind of title, it’s mainly there to make my other bolded title look better by default.)

The Seahawks demolished the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers in recent weeks. Maybe you heard. Point is that another blowout probably wasn’t going to be beneficial, at least for the playoffs. The Seahawks had to work for this win. That will be nice when the playoffs roll around and teams won’t be losing by astronomical amounts.


“Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”

That would be Jim Mora talking about, you guessed it, the playoffs. Yes, the glorious playoffs are here. We all get to wait and see who delivers the play of the postseason. Last season it might have been Kyle Williams’ muffed special-team handling, maybe Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch. The year before that, gave us Marshawn Lynch’s brilliant touchdown run against the Saints. Hopefully this year someone will provide us with a play that belongs in the same breath as the Lynch run or David Tyree’s catch. Because frankly, as much as I just amped up the Manningham catch and Williams’ trouble holding onto the ball, those plays are summed up in one word: anticlimactic.

The playoffs are a different animal this year in the NFC and almost the same relative animal in the AFC. The “National” Conference returns only Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco from last years’ playoffs with Seattle, Washington and Minnesota as the newcomers. The AFC meanwhile has the exact same lineup (Houston and Cincinnati played in the 3-6 game last year and will do the same this weekend, they must love playing each other) with the sole difference being Indianapolis taking Pittsburgh’s slot.

In the first round of the playoffs, I think Andrew Luck is going to win many a playoff game in his career, but I can’t see the Ravens losing this game. Not with it being a home game, not with it potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game, not with it being possibly Lewis’ last home game period, win or lose. The Ravens will beat the Colts 33-21.

The Bengals will definitely be more competitive than in last year’s 31-10 romp. That being said, I don’t think the Bengals can keep up with the Texans top-ten ranked offense and defense. Houston wins 24-14 over Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC I like the Vikings to beat the Packers. The Vikings won last week over Green Bay, and nothing says momentum like beating a team and then playing them again. Adrian Peterson could very well have another field day. It will be a surefire win if the Vikings’ 9th-ranked pass defense can bottle up Aaron Rodgers, Bahia Verde’s (that’s Spanish for “Green Bay” for all you folks at home) 20th-ranked run offense could stick out like Clay Bennett in Seattle. Minnesota wins 27-21.

The Great Coaching Purge: NFL

It’s being dubbed “Black Monday,” but the day that a good portion of the league lost coaches was mainly due to lack of quarterbacks. Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia all made changes. All of those teams, with the exception of Chicago (Lovie Smith probably got fired for not getting it done in the postseason, or even getting there) and maybe San Diego, have serious long-term questions at the quarterback position.

I’ll check in next week with the divisional round preview. See you then.