Gonzaga Basketball: Reasons Bulldogs Will Make a Deep Run in NCAA Tournament

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 11:  Gary Bell Jr. #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs gestures after his team defeated the Saint Mary's Gaels 65-51 in the championship game of the West Coast Conference Basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena March 11, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will flawlessly make the transition from hunter to hunted in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

For many years, Mark Few's team was making a reputation by knocking off the higher seeds en route to a captivating run in the Big Dance.

What was once a surprise has become an expectation.

The Bulldogs are a No. 1 seed, so anything less an impressive showing will be a massive disappointment. Although college basketball generally welcomes new teams to the table of elite teams, many have been quick to try and knock down Gonzaga's accomplishments.

Nobody's trying to argue the West Coast Conference is strong. It clearly isn't. The Bulldogs can only beat the teams in front of them. At the very least, they did their job, finishing with a perfect conference record during the regular season and conference tournament.

It's not as if the conference has ever been a hindrance in the past. The WCC hasn't stopped the Bulldogs from making four Sweet 16 appearances under Few. There's no reason to believe the WCC will stop Gonzaga now.

You have to give the school credit for trying to bolster its weaker conference schedule with some strong non-conference games.

While losses to the Butler Bulldogs and Illinois Fighting Illini don't help, Gonzaga does have wins against the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Kansas State Wildcats and Baylor Bears.

There's also the three victories against the Saint Mary's Gaels that came by a combined 36 points. Gonzaga finished 6-2 against the RPI top 50, which is a very good record no matter what conference the Bulldogs are in.

In terms of overall talent, this may be Few's best team. He's been able to rely on guys like Dan Dickau, Ronny Turiaf and Adam Morrison in the past but the situation is different this time around.

The Bulldogs are of course headlined by Kelly Olynyk. He's averaging 17.5 points a game. His shooting percentage of 65.2 is fourth in the country.

More importantly, Olynyk doesn't have to shoulder the burden like some Gonzaga stars of years prior. Right behind him is Elias Harris, who's scoring 14.7 points a night on 51.7 percent shooting. Kevin Pangos is shooting 42.2 percent from three-point range.

The team is much more balanced, so that if Olynyk struggles, Gonzaga can still survive.

Offensively, the team is a juggernaut. It is third in the country in field-goal percentage, shooting an absurd 50.4 percent from the field. Efficiency is vital in a knockout tournament. You're bound to run into trouble if your offense is built around your stars taking a high volume of bad shots.

Some might knock what is a perceived lack of rebounding for the Zags—when you make half of your shots you're bound to have fewer opportunities to crash the boards.

The Bulldogs have also been very careful with the ball. Their assist-to-turnover ratio is 18th in the country. As a heavy favorite, it's going to be imperative that Gonzaga not give its opponent any chance of pulling off an upset.

When you add it all up, you have a team primed to make an impact in the NCAA tournament.


Don't forget to download a printable NCAA Tournament bracket.