Midwest No. 1 seed Gonzaga, who also finished the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the AP Poll, survived a scare from No. 16 Southern University on Thursday to advance to the second round. But can any Zags fan or bracket filler who had them going deep really take solace in the final result?
On one hand, the easy argument is that a win is a win and Gonzaga will live on to play another day, so the team itself probably doesn’t care how exactly they ended up with that win. But for casual observers and skeptics alike who have been poking holes in Gonzaga’s case to be a No. 1 seed – mainly that they played a cream puff schedule – the fact that they were pushed like no No. 1 seed has been pushed in nearly two decades only adds fuel to the fire.
The last time a 16-seed came within 6 points of a 1-seed was Western Carolina in 1996 against Purdue.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2013
There’s also the issue of us immediately looking at this close game as just a poor showing by Gonzaga instead of looking at the fact that Southern probably played well above their heads. After all, Gonzaga’s impressive Canadian duo of Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos did combine for 37 points (Olynyk recorded a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds), and if the pair can continue to play like that going forward, the Zags need only another player or two to step up on any given night.
The flip side of that argument, of course, is that Gonzaga’s best players were great and yet they still barely held off a No. 16 seed that finished 182nd in the RPI rankings.
Whatever your take on the matter, the fact remains that the highly criticized Bulldogs, who didn’t exactly look sharp today, will now to have to take on a Wichita State team that put an absolute whipping on a very good Pittsburgh team earlier on Thursday.