Past, Present, Future: Why Gonzaga’s Final Four Prospects Are Bright


Their conference schedule is weak. They play a bunch of cupcakes. They always get bounced out in the Round of 32. Gonzaga has heard it before. This year is different.

Gonzaga (32-2) has their best chance to reach the Final Four this year. With five straight exits in the third round, many have reason to doubt what they can do this year. Fair enough. However, one should look at those five losses closely before they make a fair judgment about the Zags and their postseason chances.


The last time the Zags made it to the Sweet 16 was 2009. They came in as a four seed and beat Akron in the first round. A last-second Demetri Goodson layup stopped Western Kentucky’s comeback and pushed the Bulldogs into the Sweet 16. They would end up losing to North Carolina, who finished as national champions.

The Zags earned an eight seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. They beat ninth-seeded Florida State before falling to top-seeded Syracuse. It is important to note that Gonzaga played both of these games in Buffalo, New York. Because of this, most Zag fans could not travel to the game, leaving Syracuse essentially with home-court advantage. Gonzaga did what they were expected to do, and nothing more.

More from 2015 NCAA Tournament

In the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the Zags came in as an eleven seed. Most analysts did not expect the Zags to win their first game. However, the Bulldogs upset sixth-seeded St. John’s before falling to third-seeded BYU. Gonzaga did more than most expected they would do, which was win one tournament game.

The 2012 NCAA Tournament was interesting. Many thought the seventh-seeded Zags would lose to the tenth-seeded West Virginia since it was essentially a home game for them. However, the Zags routed the Mountaineers before losing a tough-fought battle with two-seeded Ohio State. Again, Gonzaga won what they were predicted to win and lost what they were to predicted to lose. It seems like a pattern is emerging.

The 2012-13 season was very unique. Gonzaga ascended to the top of the polls and earned their first one seed in school history. Because this season is so unique, I think it is most appropriate to talk about it in its own section.

Last year’s NCAA Tournament followed a similar pattern. Eight-seeded Gonzaga pushed through a foul contest with ninth-seeded Oklahoma State before getting routed by top seed Arizona. The Zags again did what they were projected to do.


The 2013 NCAA Tournament had high expectations for the Bulldogs. Many believed the Zags would reach their first final four. However, it was not meant to be.

Ninth-seeded Wichita State returned several key players who had been injured and got hot at the right time. Gonzaga succumbed to the pressure of their first top seed. In addition, GU peaked before the tournament. Anyone could see that Gonzaga’s matchup with Southern was lackadaisical to say the least.


Many people are comparing this year’s team to the the team from two years ago. There are certainly similarities, but the differences are more noticeable.

This year’s team is led by Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer. The former McDonald’s All-American won a national championship with the Wildcats in 2012. He knows what it takes to go all the way. In a recent Sportscenter segment, Wiltjer admitted that he talks about that run with his teammates everyday. Combine that with the Wichita State loss and one can see that the Zags have more motivation than ever before.

When Gonzaga went on their elite eight run in 1999, they played with a toughness that was sparked from people not believing what they could do. People have reason to doubt what Gonzaga can do. The Zags have a great chance to channel that doubt into a long tournament run. It is what got them there in the first place.


The 2015 NCAA Tournament starts in Seattle for the Zags. Gonzaga begins with a matchup against 15-seed North Dakota State. The Bison do not look that impressive on paper, but they should not be taken lightly. If the Zags are focused and come out to play for 40 minutes, they should have no problem advancing to the Round of 32.

More from West Coast Convo

If the Zags advance, they would play the winner of Iowa and Davidson. Since there is no Stephen Curry to worry about, I see the Zags grinding it out with Davidson and pulling away with the win. Then comes the Sweet 16.

The matchup many basketball fans want to see is Gonzaga-Iowa State. The Cyclones have been very impressive as of late. They overcame multiple double-digit deficits and beat Kansas to win the Big 12 Tournament title. This would be a very tough matchup for the Zags. If they can show up and make big time plays to secure the win, I believe this team can get past Duke in the elite eight to go to their first final four.

Gonzaga’s fate is in their hands. They are the only obstacles standing in their way. If Gonzaga feeds off of the doubters and plays for 40 minutes, they can reach their first final four. If not, they will exit early yet again.