By Jim Moore
I predicted that Gonzaga would be the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and as is usually the case, I was wrong.
The Bulldogs survived a scare and beat Southern 64-58 to advance to play Wichita State on Saturday.
Close doesn’t count in predictions, but if you took Southern and the 22 points, as I also suggested, you’re a happy camper in Vegas.
How could I have predicted Southern to win when I hadn’t even seen the Jaguars play and couldn’t name a single player on the team?
I just thought that Gonzaga would feel the pressure of being a No. 1 seed. It was a classic situation of one team with everything to lose playing another team with nothing to lose.
The Go 2 Go still doesn’t think Gonzaga is poised for a deep NCAA tournament run. But he is predicting a second round Bulldog win. (AP)
I also bought into what so many of the college-basketball experts were saying – this tournament is as wide open as it’s ever been. Louisville coach Rick Pitino even said that of any year, this would be the one when a No. 16 has the best chance of winning.
I’m in the camp with those who believe that West Coast Conference competition does not properly prepare Gonzaga for making a strong run in the tournament or winning the national championship.
If the Zags played in the Pac-12, they would have had at least two losses, maybe three, possibly four. If they played in the Big Ten, they might have lost more often than that.
And I thought if Gonzaga beat my Cougs by only two points on a coast-to-coast dash by Kevin Pangos, how good could they be? Washington State finished next-to-last in the conference.
Pangos prevented that upset from happening and stopped
another on Thursday when he made a terrific move on the right wing and drilled a three with 1:57 remaining. That gave Gonzaga a 62-58 lead, and Southern failed to score the rest of the way.
Thursday’s game would lead you to think that Gonzaga is extremely vulnerable against Wichita State, a No. 9 seed that ousted No. 8 seed Pitt in the first round.
Wichita State is another team that must be pretty darn good if it beat Pitt. Why? Because ESPN’s Jay Williams predicted that Pitt would beat Gonzaga if the two teams met in the second round.
I also read where Pitt, according to someone who does some intense statistical analysis, was the most-underseeded team in the tournament. This person thought Pitt should have been a No. 4 seed.
This is further proof that no one knows what they’re talking about, including me, especially me.
But I’m not talking now, I’m writing. And here’s what’s popped into my mind about the Gonzaga-Wichita State game:
The Zags will win easily.
Again, as was the case with Southern, I couldn’t name a single player on Wichita State’s team. The only thing I know about the Shockers is that they clobbered the Cougs in the Final Four of the NIT a few years ago.
Why would I go from picking against the Zags to saying they’ll cruise to the Sweet Sixteen? Geez, I don’t know, I’m just basing it on a couple of random things such as:
-In past tournaments, I remember trying to make correlations to razor-thin survival-type wins in early-round games. You would think that those teams who barely advanced would be highly susceptible in subsequent rounds. It’s not always the case.
-Now that the Bulldogs have dealt with the burden of being a No. 1 seed, I think they’ll relax and play their game on Saturday. I’m sure the Shockers will give them everything they can handle, but I expect that Gonzaga will withstand that and pull away in the second half.
-Honestly, I’m too lazy to do the research, but I’m guessing that in the history of the tournament, when a No. 1 faces a No. 9, No. 1 wins 75 percent of the time.
There are doubters galore when it comes to Gonzaga now, and it’s reflected by the line on the Wichita State game. The Bulldogs are favored by 6 ½. I think they’ll win by 10 or more.
Let’s call it: GONZAGA 75, WICHITA STATE 62