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Blaming Gonzaga’s WCC affiliation for NCAA Championship loss is a disservice to basketball – and logic

What college basketball needs right now: Fans in the stands practice on the scouting track, watch five-star prospects and undiscovered gems at the Nike Peach Jam, and teams moving to play. games on the road without fear of being called off due to traced contact. Hopefully sport can come back to all of these essentials very soon.

What college basketball never needs: the infuriating elitism of college football.

The NCAA tournament is an egalitarian endeavor. Despite all the annoyances about how mid-size programs don’t get a fair deal, they are guaranteed about one-third of the field each year – one-third of the opportunities to compete for a national championship. Some, like the Loyola Ramblers in 2018, are very close to claiming this title. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have come so often so close and invested so much in the pursuit of excellence that they have managed to surpass the mid-major label.

Despite everything they accomplish, however, some are still willing to destroy logic in an attempt to push them back into this category.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga how hard it is to win – and them – all

The Zags continue to participate in the West Coast Conference. They have won or shared their regular season championship in 20 of the past 21 seasons. They haven’t missed any NCAA tournament since 1998.

And if that was where it all ended – getting into the tournament, getting home quickly – there might be a case where remaining a member of the WCC is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. The Zags were still alive as of March Madness 2021, as they rode through April for the Final Four.

They were still alive at 9:18 p.m. Monday, carrying a perfect record in the NCAA Championship game prediction. It was the second time since 2017 that they had come this far in the tournament. They came close to winning the title in 2017, a one-point game against North Carolina with 50 seconds remaining turned into a six-point Tar Heels victory. The Zags were beaten down this time around by an extraordinary Baylor side who performed at the top of their game.

A lot of people looked at what happened and came to this conclusion: Playing at the CMC didn’t prepare the Zags for the tournament. They have not been tested in combat. That’s why they lost. Not the 10 3 points the Bears made, nor their offensive rebound percentage of 48.5, nor Gonzaga All-American Corey Kispert’s suddenly finicky shot.

But no, it was Pepperdine’s fault.

Fortunately, no one in the US sports media was stupid enough to come up with this theory to Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few in the wake of the loss to Baylor, so I don’t have quotes from him to decorate this. chronic. I only have facts, which should shout out loud to everyone who “battle tested” is a myth. The Zags’ difficulty in winning the NCAA Championships comes down to – and it can be hard to fathom – it’s hard to win an NCAA Championship.

MORE: Breaking the 1 Minute 36 Second Streak That Ended Gonzaga’s Title Hopes

Since 2015, when the Zags moved up to Elite Eight with Kyle Wiltjer as the star player, Gonzaga has won more NCAA tournament games than any other program.

Her 20 NCAA wins are more than two-time champion Villanova (17), more than North Carolina (16), more than Duke (15), more than Kansas and Kentucky (13 each) and more than Wisconsin (10). That is true. You line up the blue bloods, the recent big conference powers, and Gonzaga’s success in the NCAA tournament – when he’s supposed to be hampered by the WCC – is beyond anyone.

In that six-tournament span, it took the future NCAA Champion to knock them out three times and a Final Four contestant to knock them out twice. They achieved two Final Fours in this period. Only Villanova, North Carolina and the state of Michigan can say the same. Here are some of the teams Gonzaga defeated during this time: Florida State, Iowa, West Virginia, Creighton, Ohio State, USC, UCLA (twice).

Oh, and Baylor.

The Bulldogs have reached six straight Sweet 16s. No other active varsity team can match this streak. In fact, since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only three other times has such a streak been achieved: twice by Duke and once by North Carolina.

If the Zags aren’t properly prepared for the NCAA tournament, then who is it?

MORE: Baylor ends Gonzaga’s perfect season with a Texas-sized storybook finish

The two highest-rated conferences according to the NCAA NET system in 2020-2021 were the Big Ten and Big 12. They produced 16 NCAA tournament offers between them, but only two teams that advanced to Sweet 16. Their Experience suggests that being “battle tested” might actually be a detriment in the pursuit of a championship ring.

Gonzaga’s dismissal is the product of the bleeding elitism of college football, so ingrained in its aristocracy that it refuses to even allow programs to win championship opportunities on the pitch, whether they come from the richest conferences. or beyond. In the college football playoff invitational tournament, teams do not earn their place in the tournament. They are, universally, selected.

A Gonzaga would never stand a chance in such an operation, but the Zags are welcome in college basketball. The most rational fans of the game understand their worth, talent and achievement.

This is correct. It really is not complicated. The facts cannot be disputed, only ignored.

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