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Seahawks can learn from Zags falling to pressure

Gonzaga coach Mark Few watches during the No. 1 Zags’ 76-70 loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in Salt Lake City. (AP)

By Brent Stecker

After several big acquisitions and a No. 1 ranking in ESPN’s latest NFL Power Rankings, the Seattle Seahawks have a target on their back. The weight of expectations are upon them, and as ESPN 710 Seattle’s Brock Huard and King 5’s Chris Egan discussed, they can learn from the Gonzaga basketball team’s fall from grace in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend.

The Zags entered the tournament as the No. 1 team in the final polls and the No. 1 seed in the West Region, but they under-performed, barely surviving No. 16 Southern in their first game, then their season end in a 76-70 loss to Wichita State. The weight of expectations got to them.

“You just felt Gonzaga was playing very tight, and I think that No. 1 seed had a lot to do with it,” Egan said. “Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos in my mind still kinda played with that no-fear, ‘I’m a shooter, I’m a scorer’ (mentality). The rest of that team — guys like (David) Stockton,(Elias) Harris — tightened up a little bit and didn’t want the ball. And you watch Wichita State, every guy wanted the ball and wanted to shoot the ball. … Wichita State played with no fear at all.”

The Seahawks are entering the 2013 NFL season in a similar position. Coming off a playoff run and a red-hot second half of the 2012 season, the Seahawks have only gotten better by adding explosive wide receiver Percy Harvin, top defensive end Cliff Avril, and fellow pass rusher Michael Bennett.

“This is the No. 1-ranked team. This is no longer the underdogs,” Huard said. “Now you are the No. 1 seed. Now you are the favorite. Now the bulls-eye is clearly on you, and all the attention’s going to be on you. Can you live up to all the hype and all the expectation and all this buzz now that you are the No. 1 guy in all of the NFL?”

Seattle will have to avoid drinking the Kool-Aid, as former Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike.

“Whether it’s Gonzaga, whether it’s Georgetown, (there is) the outside influence,” Greenberg said. “You win a big game and walk around campus, and you start to drink the drink the Kool-Aid. It goes in the other direction, also. All of the sudden that pressure — ‘How can you lose to Florida Gulf Coast?’ All of the sudden I think subliminally that stuff wears on you.”

Huard said the Seahawks have a couple of things on their side that the upset victims in the tournament didn’t.

“I think there are two enormous advantages that the Seahawks have over a Mark Few and Gonzaga team, or some of these No. 1 seeds that maybe haven’t been there before. First and foremost, your head guy, your head coach (Pete Carroll), at the collegiate level for a decade had to deal with this whole conversation, being No. 1 in the preseason polls (at USC).

“The second point is the chip on the shoulder. You think Richard Sherman’s chip is going to go anywhere? Is Marshawn Lynch’s personality changing?”

Huard believes two words that Greenberg said hurt the Zags — subliminal and Kool-Aid — won’t affect the Seahawks.

“I think both of those things have no place down at the VMAC. When you bring in Percy Harvin and you bring in Cliff Avril and when you draft 11 guys … they’re going to come in and push the incumbents. Nobody’s ever fully comfortable. I think the Kool-Aid gets left outside because of the edge Pete brings day in and day out.”