It's pretty remarkable to look back at the past 18 years, and sit here today knowing that Gonzaga should earn the second No. 1 seed in program history. Before we get alarmed about whether or not this is the team to make the program's first Final Four, I suggest taking 15 seconds and just enjoying what this program has become. Plain and simple, this is one of the elite programs in the country. That's pretty awesome.
So with that said, and this assumes that Gonzaga ends up being the No. 1 seed out West, below is a list of teams that I'd love to see in the bracket, as well as some teams that I would like to see shipped as far away from the West Coast as possible.
Send Them Out West:
Potential 8/9 seeds:
South Carolina: The Gamecocks got off to a really strong start this season and looked like they might be able to challenge Florida for that second spot in the SEC. However, since the start of February, South Carolina has lost six games, including three to teams outside the RPI Top 50. This is a team that doesn't really have an identity right now, and a team that I'd love to see in the Round of 32.
Northwestern: This is one of best stories of the season, but that doesn't mean that I would be upset if they end up in Salt Lake with the Zags. While there is a ton of buzz around this team because it will play in its first-ever NCAA Tournament, the reality is they are 0-5 against the RPI Top 25, rank 38th in KenPom, and frankly, struggle away from home against good teams. This is a matchup I would love to see the Zags have with a spot in the sweet 16 on the line.
Potential 4/5 seeds:
Butler: I love this program. Along with Gonzaga, they are a true High-Major program that has emerged from the "mid-major" tag. With that said, this is a team that has really overachieved this season. While they have beat some good teams, I think Gonzaga matches up very favorably against the Bulldogs, and if they are able to get the pace at a high level, I'm not sure Butler can keep up wit this team.
Florida St.: There is no doubt this might be one of the most athletic teams in the country. They also have a potential lottery pick in Jonathan Issac. With that said, FSU is 7-4 sine the start of February, battles long stretches of inconsistency, and I love the thought of the coaching staff having 4-5 days to prepare for this matchup. The athleticism could certainly be problematic, but give me this in the Sweet 16, and I think the Zags have a great chance to advance.
The 2 seed:
Arizona: We have all heard it since December. Gonzaga only beat Arizona because Allonzo Trier didn't play. However, that detracts from the fact that the Zags were dominant in Los Angeles when these teams met. Don't let the final score fool you, as it wasn't that close. Gonzaga led by double-digits throughout the second half, and a sudden inability to make free-throws is what kept the game close. Plus, this is a series that has been pretty evenly matched the past three years, so GU knows they can win if they play their best.
Keep These Teams Far Away:
Potential 8/9 seeds:
Oklahoma St: This team will be this low of a seed only because of how they started Big 12 play. After an 0-6 start, they closed Big 12 play on fire. Since February 1, the only teams the Pokes have lost to are Baylor, Iowa St. and Kansas. They also have a guard in Jawun Evans, who is capable of blowing up a bracket on any given night. Lastly, this team is incredibly well-coached with Brad Underwood at the helm, and former Zag, Stephen Gentry, on the staff.
Wichita St.: Part of me would be fine with this, solely for the thought of how cathartic it would be to knock off the Shockers. Then, I remembered, Gregg Marshall is still the coach, this is a top 10 KenPom ranked team, and they haven't lost since January 14th. Let's have some other program deal with this team.
Potential 4/5 seeds:
Notre Dame: Maybe because people are so focused on how bad the football program is, but it appears that Mike Brey's team still isn't getting the recognition it deserves. Yes, the Irish have nine losses, but eight of them have come against NCAA Tournament teams, with the 9th coming against a Georgia Tech team that was on the bubble a week ago. They also have a lot of momentum after making a run all the way to the ACC Tournament final.
Virginia: This isn't a vintage Tony Bennett team. With that said, I know Gonzaga fans still have nightmares about some of the WSU teams he had that beat Gonzaga. And while this team has struggled, you just need to look at its 53-43 win over UNC in February to know that ti can flip a switch and suffocate any team in the country.
Potential 2 seed
Duke: With a roster lined with McDonald's All-American's, and a backcourt featuring veteran talent, I'd prefer to see Duke as far away from the West as possible. This is a team that was able to handle the loss of its head coach, internal fighting, and even disappointing play from a couple of 5-star recruits. Now, it's playing its best basketball of the season and should be a favorite to win it all.