The No. 1 general seed within the NCAA match is meant to have the simplest path via the bracket. The match is seeded on an S-Curve, which implies high group within the discipline is meant to face the weakest No. 2 seed, strongest No. 3 seed, and weakest No. 4 seed. Whereas that sounds good in principle, it will be exhausting responsible Gonzaga in the event that they really feel otherwise this morning.
The Bulldogs are a No. 1 seed within the males’s NCAA match for the third straight 12 months. They’re the No. 1 general seed within the discipline for the second straight season. Gonzaga has completed nearly every part a program can with out profitable a nationwide championship. Whereas the Bulldogs definitely have the expertise to do it this 12 months, their highway feels extremely troublesome.
Because the 2022 males’s NCAA match was revealed on Choice Sunday, it instantly felt just like the West was the dreaded Area of Dying. Right here’s why.
Gonzaga has a robust case as one of the best group within the nation
No, the Zags have by no means gained the nationwide championship. Nevertheless, they’ve made it to a minimum of the Candy 16 for six straight years, and appeared within the nationwide championship sport twice within the final 4 years.
Whereas it is a new Gonzaga group from the one which began 31-0 final season earlier than falling to Baylor within the nationwide title sport, that is nonetheless the No. 1 general group within the discipline for a cause. Veteran large man Drew Timme and freshman phenom Chet Holmgren kind one of the best 1-2 punch of any entrance line in America. The Zags even have an skilled level guard in Andrew Nembhard operating the offense within the halfcourt. Julian Strawther has emerged as a dynamic wing scorer, whereas Rasir Bolton blossomed into the most effective shooters within the nation.
Gonzaga is the one group that’s top-10 in each offensive and defensive effectivity coming into the match. This can be a professional powerhouse with the potential high decide within the NBA draft in Holmgren. So why is their path so exhausting?
Memphis or Boise State goes to be a troublesome second spherical opponent
As soon as Gonzaga will get previous its opener in opposition to Georgia State, they’re going to have a tricky spherical of 32 matchup no matter who wins the 8-9 sport between Boise State and Memphis.
Boise State gained the Mountain West common season crown and the convention match. Memphis has merely been taking part in like the most effective groups within the nation since freshman guard Emoni Bates exited the lineup with an harm. The Tigers are 12-2 of their final 14 video games, and enter the match taking part in their greatest ball after an unpleasant begin.
Boise is the second-highest rated No. 8 seed on KenPom, solely behind the San Diego State squad they beat within the Mountain West match title sport. Memphis is the best rated No. 9 seed within the discipline. Gonzaga might be favored, probably by double-digits, in opposition to both group, however it certainly gained’t be a stroll within the park.
Arkansas and UConn are each feisty as No. 4 and No. 5 seeds respectively
Ask SEC opponents about how exhausting it’s to play Arkansas. The Razorbacks gained 14 of their ultimate 16 video games in convention play earlier than coming into the SEC match, which included residence wins in opposition to Kentucky and Tennessee. Arkansas was upset off Texas A&M within the convention match, however that is nonetheless a very good group led by a wonderful senior level guard in JD Notae and breakout sophomore middle in Jaylin Williams.
UConn has the profile of a possible darkhorse to make a deep NCAA match run, too. The Huskies play at a gradual tempo and management the tempo of each sport they play. They’ve a reliable lead guard in RJ Cole and a terrific large man in sophomore Adama Sanogo. Dan Hurley has this program headed in the appropriate course.
UConn and Arkansas are each rated as top-20 general groups on KenPom coming into the match. Gonzaga will once more be an enormous favourite in any Candy 16 matchup, however it gained’t be a straightforward W.
Duke and Texas Tech are each adequate to make the Last 4
Duke is technically the lowest-rated No. 2 seed after a brutal near the season that noticed the group lose Coach Ok’s ultimate residence sport to North Carolina, after which botch the ACC match championship in opposition to Virginia Tech. Nevertheless, this Blue Devils roster continues to be simply as proficient as any within the nation.
Gonzaga is aware of how good Duke is. Duke gave the Zags considered one of their three losses by beating them 84-80 in Nov. The Blue Devils really feel like they’re going the unsuitable manner as they begin Coach Ok’s final dance, however any lineup with Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore, and Trevor Keels gained’t be a straightforward out.
Texas Tech misplaced head coach Chris Beard to Texas over the offseason, however former assistant Mark Adams reloaded the roster with transfers and maintained an elite protection. The Purple Raiders have the No. 1 protection in America with an extended and athletic lineup that options nobody underneath 6’6. Texas Tech doesn’t have a pure shot creator at level guard, however they do have a whole group of powerful, bodily, and disciplined defenders who may give any unit matches. If junior guard Terrance Shannon can get on a heater offensively, the Purple Raiders may need simply sufficient offense to breakthrough the bracket.
Gonzaga ought to nonetheless come out of the West, however it gained’t be simple
Gonzaga’s mixture of expertise objectively appears like probably the most spectacular within the nation coming into the match. It additionally appears like they’ve a brilliant troublesome path via the bracket.
There isn’t actually a method for beating the Zags. After I requested our group website The Slipper Nonetheless Suits what the group’s largest weak spot was, that is what they stated:
For my part, and I’m actually not attempting to go full meathead fan right here, Gonzaga’s flaw has been their toughness. In 3 of their 4 losses courting again to the Baylor sport, the refs have known as a free whistle and allowed a bodily sport, which is okay, however Gonzaga didn’t match their opponents toughness (Baylor, Duke, SMC final night time) in these fist-fight sort of video games. The Zags wish to play quick, free-flowing and exquisite basketball however after they have needed to grind in opposition to a bodily opponent they don’t at all times rise to the event. Gonzaga can win that sort of sport (see the W over Texas Tech), however they don’t wish to play that manner.
If Gonzaga breaks via to one other Last 4, they’ll have actually earned it this time.