A Gonzaga Fan's Handbook: How to Combat the Critics

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A Gonzaga Fan's Handbook: How to Combat the Critics
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga fans have got to be getting tired of hearing the same old tune: you are overrated.

Truth of the matter, these Zags are not overrated. 

This is by far the best team to come through Spokane, Washington in some time, and those who say that they are NIT bound or destined to a first round upset are either uninformed or just plain ignorant.

With a solid nonconference record, a dominating conference performance in an undervalued WCC, no bad losses and a balanced team that matches up well with all different styles, this team is anything but overrated.

However, as Gonzaga is now the heir apparent to the AP Poll's #1 ranking after Indiana's loss to Minnesota, the trolling and hating is only going to continue.

 

Some Quick Definitions:

 

Mid Major: A mid-major (a detestable phrase) is defined by most as any team outside of the power-six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC and PAC-12). 

Gonzaga is often credited with helping to debunk the term mid-major because, unlike most teams that can be categorized as such, the Bulldogs are a perennial top 25 team, always a factor in March, and able to draw elite talent.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk have helped separate Gonzaga as a potential AP Poll #1

Gonzaga often gets unfairly bunched in with other mid-majors. Calling Gonzaga a mid-major is like comparing a pit-bull to a puppy, but we’ll get to that shortly.

 

RPI: The RPI, or the Ratings Percentage Index, is used by the NCAA Selection Committee to decide on the field of 37, at large teams and seeding. RPI is calculated using a team’s winning percentage, opponent’s winning percentage and overall strength of schedule. It is widely considered an accurate barometer of overall team success. 

 

What follows in bold are actual comments I have read, and how Gonzaga fans should respond.   Feel free to copy and paste as necessary.

 

Gonzaga is a mid-major, and since a mid-major has never won the NCAA Championship, they are irrelevant.

As previously stated, Gonzaga is not your prototypical mid-major. Instead of the often overpowered and out-classed automatic qualifiers, such as UNC Asheville or Detroit, Gonzaga is a mid-major with the capability of making the tournament as an at large team.

True, a mid-major has never won a national championship, but Butler, then of the Horizon league, went to two straight championship games in 2010 and 2011, as a mid-major. 

This Gonzaga team is equally capable of making a run considering their similar makeup. Butler had great guard play, a solid frontcourt, a high basketball IQ and a winner for a coach.

Gonzaga has all of this and more.

Gonzaga hoists the Old Spice Classic Trophy in Orlando. Photo courtesy of nbccollegebasketballtalk

Furthermore, Gonzaga is going to find itself with a one or two seed. This won’t only be an advantage in the sense that the bracket normally opens up for top seeds, but it is also advantageous because Gonzaga will almost certainly find itself playing on the west coast.

Is Gonzaga a lock to win a national championship? Absolutely not, but then again, nobody is.

I certainly wouldn’t hold their status as a mid-major against them, though.

 

Gonzaga only wins at home.

True, Gonzaga has one of the best home court advantages in the country. The Kennel Club, Gonzaga’s student section, has been in the running for the Naismith Student Section of the Year, and the McCarthey Athletic Center has sold out every game since it opened in 2004.

Gonzaga has an impressive record away from home this season as well, though.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga's Kennel Club is among the best in the nation.

To begin the season, the Bulldogs traveled to Orlando to win the Old Spice Classic. This was an impressive feat considering Gonzaga traveled further than any other team (2,852 miles) to the neutral site tournament.

Gonzaga also took down Kansas State on a neutral site during the Battle in Seattle just a week before the Wildcats downed the Florida Gators. 

Furthermore, Gonzaga has some great road wins under their belt. The best of these came at Gallagher-Iba when Gonzaga took down Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The committee weighs road record and neutral site record heavily when seeding, and Gonzaga has done well to show the committee exactly what they can do in a tournament setting.

 

Gonzaga plays in a weak conference.

Nobody is going to argue that the WCC is better than the Big 10 or the Big East. It is true that Gonzaga does not play in a power six conference, but the WCC is underrated in a few different ways. 

Let’s start with a blind resume of the WCC and a power six conference:

Name the following two conferences:

 

Conference 1: 1st place (RPI:5), 2nd place (46), 3rd place (62), 4th place (57)

Conference 2: 1st place (RPI:10), 2nd place (44), 3rd place (60), 4th place (88)

 

Times up:

Conference 1 is the SEC and Conference 2 is the WCC. 

 

SEC: Florida (5), Kentucky (46), Alabama (62), Ole Miss (57)

WCC: Gonzaga (10), St. Mary’s (44), BYU (60), Santa Clara (88)

 

The similarities at the top are almost as eerie as the similarities at the bottom.

 

WCC: San Francisco (157), Pepperdine (198), Portland (223), LMU (247)

SEC:  Vanderbilt (144) South Carolina (201), Auburn (221), Miss. St. (241)

 

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga does not back down from a fight. They are tough.

Top to bottom, Gonzaga is playing in the equivalent of the SEC, and yet, when Florida loses on the road at Arkansas (RPI: 76), nobody has an overrated chant prepared for the Gators.

However, when Gonzaga loses at the buzzer in Hinkle Fieldhouse to Butler (RPI: 30), national confidence in the Zags is greatly diminished.  

The Zags, unlike Florida, have no losses in their comparable conference despite having a considerable target on their back. 

Something else to consider is that Gonzaga, even more so than a Duke, Indiana or Kansas, are the top game on each and every WCC team’s schedule. Gonzaga plays in sold out venues on each and every road swing, and while it is hard for some not to take a night off or play down to the level of competition, the Zags were able to avoid such play. 

Gonzaga’s ability to avoid a loss in conference will make them that much more attractive come seeding time. 

 

Gonzaga’s weak schedule will drag them down in March when they finally play some good talent. 

Gonzaga gets a lot of flack for playing in the WCC, which we have already proven is not the Big 10, but it is also not the WAC.  

If you think about it, though, Gonzaga plays the same type of schedule as your prototypical powerhouse.  They just do it backwards.

Here is an easier blind comparison test.  (Hint: The team with the hardest nonconference schedule is Gonzaga).

 

Team 1: Bryant U., North Dakota State, Sam Houston St., Georgia, Ball State, UNC, Coppin, Central Connecticut, Butler, Mt. St. Mary’s, Florida Atlantic U., Jacksonville.  (three neutral site games, zero road games) 

Team 2:  Stetson, Florida Gulf, Jacksonville, Detroit, Michigan St., UMASS, Charlotte, Central Florida, Hawaii, Florida, Indiana State, La Salle (four road games)

Team 3: Albany, Rhode Island, Washington, UMKC, Duke, Northern Kentucky, Long Beach State, Savannah, UNC Asheville, Winthrop, Kansas, Chicago State. (two neutral site games, one road game

Team 4: Southern Utah, West Virginia, South Dakota, Clemson, Oklahoma, Davidson, Lewis and Clark, Pacific, Washington State, Illinois, Kansas State, Campbell, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Butler (three neutral site games, three road games)

Team 5: SIU-Edwards, Alcorn State, Nicholls State, Stanford, Louisville, VCU, Appalachian State, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee St, South Carolina State, Illinois, UCLA, Bucknell. (one road game)

 

Based on the nature and intent of this article, you probably guessed that Gonzaga is team four. 

 

Team 1: Indiana

Team 2: Miami

Team 3: Ohio State

Team 4: Gonzaga

Team 5: Missouri

 

William Mancebo/Getty Images
Kevin Pangos and company will look towards a potential #1 ranking

During their nonconference schedule, Gonzaga went 5-0 against the Big 12, including wins over three of the Big 12’s top four teams (Kansas St., Oklahoma St., Oklahoma). 

They proved they can assert themselves down low against teams with formidable, power six frontcourts, and Kelly Olynyk emerged as an All-American caliber, POY finalist.

Gonzaga has always been willing to play anyone, anywhere and anytime. 

That is why Mark Few decided to challenge his players by having them play in an environment like Hinkle Fieldhouse. You have to think that the Zags’ experience playing in tough environments is only going to help them moving forward into March.

 

Yeah, but Gonzaga lost to Butler and Illinois! 

Gonzaga has lost two games this season, and while many take that as a sign that they are not worthy of praise, it is important to realize that even the best teams get beat throughout the season.  

To put GU’s losses into perspective, let’s take a look at Miami’s losses versus Gonzaga’s losses.

 

Miami: Florida Gulf College (111), Arizona (11), Indiana St. (59), Wake Forest (135)

Gonzaga: Illinois (32), Butler (30)

 

 

Some how, Miami is more highly rated by some than Gonzaga, despite the fact that the Hurricanes have two losses outside the RPI top 100.  This is not to say that Miami is a bad team, as much as it is to say that even great teams lose.

As far as losses go, neither of these were particularly bad, and since the Butler loss on January 19th, Gonzaga has won 10 straight games.

Gonzaga is the only team in division one basketball that has just two losses, and that is testament to the fact that they bring the same effort to each and every game. 

You shouldn’t hear this criticism from an Indiana fan, by the way, because they have lost to both Illinois and Butler as well.

 

Conclusion:

There will always be critics. There will always be doubters. There will definitely always be trolling commenters.

Take Gonzaga’s critics to be a good sign. After all, to be overrated, you have to be highly rated to begin with. 

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the day, you can use this guide to combat Gonzaga’s critics, but the ultimate revenge you can have is to allow them to continue to be oblivious to Gonzaga’s talent.

Come March, these very doubters will get burned when Gonzaga is successful, and my only hope is that if anyone bets their house that Gonzaga will fail, that they decide to purchase an RV or a spacious tent before then.

 

Follow Hayden Deitrick on Twitter for all things Zags: @hdeitrick

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