Over the last 20 years, Gonzaga has risen from Cinderella to consistent mid-major winner to one of the best programs in the country. The Zags just need to reach a Final Four. They are halfway there this season, with No. 4 West Virginia (28-8) awaiting in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 7:39 p.m. ET.
Is this the year that No. 1 Gonzaga (34-1) gets the monkey off its back?
“They are truly one of the elite programs in the country,” former Gonzaga All-American and current college basketball analyst Dan Dickau said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Really, the last thing to check off on the box is a Final Four. To be honest with you, I think this is the year.”
If it’s not, Gonzaga will continue to be discredited by pundits and fans alike.
“It comes up all the time,” Dickau said. “I hear it with the broadcasting that I do on radio with Westwood One. I hear it with Pac-12 Network when I do stuff with them. It’s just an easy question to ask. But in all honesty, they’re right. Gonzaga has yet to make a Final Four, as good as they are. But at the same time, you can flip that question and (say), ‘Okay, we haven’t made a Final Four. Do you understand how difficult it is to make a Final Four?’ Trust me: There are plenty of power-conference schools that haven’t been to a Final Four that don’t get asked that same question. There’s only a couple programs that can say we’ve been to 19 straight NCAA Tournaments. To be able to say that is pretty impressive.”
Unfortunately, half of the country, at least, doesn’t watch Gonzaga on a regular basis. That’s because most Gonzaga games don’t tip off until late at night – at least if you’re on the East Coast.
For that reason, many people feel there’s an inherent East Coast bias in college basketball. Dickau agrees.
“There is a lot of credibility to that thought and that comment,” he said. “But it’s normal and it’s natural. The majority of people in this country live on the East Coast. The majority of basketball programs that are Division I are east of the Mississippi, and so rightfully so there’s more attention paid to those programs. How many people in New York are staying up and starting a Gonzaga game at 10 o’clock knowing you got to get up at 6 a.m. for work? You might stay up and watch a few minutes of it, but you’re not going to watch the whole game. It’s the same with an Arizona or a UCLA or an Oregon game. So you hate to say it, but it’s kind of an easy answer. ‘Hey, I don’t think the Zags are very good.’ Well, have you seen them that much? They probably haven’t.”