It's been 10 years since the Gonzaga Bulldogs have reached the Elite Eight. 1999 marked the year "The Zags" became a common name in the NCAA tournament with a surprising underdog run through the tournament, and a near Final Four berth.
So what has happened in the last 10 years?
The Zags have appeared in 11 consecutive NCAA tournaments, tied for fifth all time. They have reached the Sweet Sixteen five times, and the Elite Eight once. They are 14-11 overall in the tournament. However, going into this year's tournament, the Bulldogs were on a three game losing streak.
Now, jump forward to 2009.
Gonzaga is now considered a Powerhouse among the most elite basketball schools in the nation. There is no mention of them being a "Cinderella" or "Mid-Major" team anymore. The primary focus of conversation is the disappointment the Zags have shown in the past 10 years since making it to the Elite Eight.
Expectations have been high for Gonzaga for the past several years. This may be the first year that little mention has been made for the Bulldogs and how far they can go in the tournament.
Maybe this is a good thing.
While Gonzaga dominates it's conference year in and year out, they seem to struggle at times with teams they should beat. History has shown that this team shines when being considered the underdog.
Perhaps the upcoming game against the University of North Carolina is just what the Zags need.
The Bulldogs are expected to lose this game. Carolina is predicted to win by eight or nine points, and run through the Elite Eight to the Final Four. After all, the Tar Heels were the dominant preseason favorite to win the National Championship.
Gonzaga has nothing to lose in this game. Good teams that have nothing to lose favor well in close matchups. The pressure is on North Carolina to win this game, while Gonzaga should be loose and ready to knock down the No.1 team in the South Region.
What can we expect between North Carolina and Gonzaga?
Expect to see a battle down low between Josh Heytvelt and Tyler Hansbrough. These two played tough in their last match up in 2006, at Madison Square Garden, with Heytvelt prevailing as the winner.
Expect a running, high-scoring game. Neither team favors a slow, half-court offense and feels that each is better at getting in the open court and catching teams off-guard
Expect Demetri Goodson to play a lot of minutes. His primary role will be similar to that against the University of Kentucky, shut down the leading outside scorer. In this case, it will be Ty Lawson. While Jeremy Pargo is both good and valuable to GU, Goodson proved his worth to the team by shutting down Kentucky's hot-shooter, Orlando Mendez-Valdez.
This game should be a fight to the bitter end. The predictions are near impossible, but one can expect a good game and a great match up. This should be one of the best games in the Sweet Sixteen.