The Gonzaga Bulldogs could end up being the most criticized #1 seed ever, if the unthinkable happens.
As a 16-seed last year, UNC-Asheville pushed #1 seed Syracuse to the brink before finally falling to the Orange. Princeton, as a 16, gave Georgetown all it could handle in 1989 before losing by one point. In that same tournament, East Tennessee State came within a basket of taking out top-seeded Oklahoma. And Murray State took Michigan State to overtime before the 1-seed Spartans finally won by four points.
Yes, no 16-seed has ever beaten a 1-seed in the men’s tournament. And, we all hold out hopes that it will finally happen to a juggernaut like Duke or Kansas or Kentucky.
However, here is Gonzaga — the major team in the “mid-majors.” The team that goes out and looks for competition and has built itself up to being a perennial contender and power. And though it was Butler that broke through and made the championship game as a mid-tier school — twice — Gonzaga is still the team people look at to finally give the “little guys” the best change to take home the title.
Gonzaga’s long, hard road to respectability finally paid off with a coveted 1-seed. This after being ranked #1 in the polls for the first time ever! And, even though some opine that it is undeserved due to the Bulldogs’ conference, Gonzaga did what the could with their non-conference schedule.
And yet, here is the dilemma. We want to see that 16-seed pull the biggest upset in tournament history. But, if it happens against Gonzaga, would it be bittersweet? If Southern pulls off the shocker, how will it be perceived?
The win would not come against the so-called “big boys.” Yet, it would still be a 16-seed doing the unthinkable. On the other hand, some will say that such an upset would not have happened had Gonzaga been “properly seeded.” They will argue that the Bulldogs should have never been a top-seed and will use the upset to buoy their argument that Gonzaga is overrated.
It is a tough spot for the ‘Zags. A win is ho-hum…moving on. But, the “epic” loss that we as basketball fans yearn to see — 16 knocking off the 1? Devastating!
In the end, maybe Gonzaga blows out Southern and the game becomes simply a lost memory. But, they could possibly be under the most pressure of any 1-seed facing a 16-seed in the history of the tournament. And, they will probably be the most scrutinized if they do anything short of making the Final Four.
It all starts soon.