The headline in the Seattle Times today read. “Another too short dance.” Those that do not closely follow college basketball might read that and think that Gonzaga perennially underachieves in the NCAA tournament. Of course, the facts conclude otherwise. Only one team has been to the sweet 16 for seven consecutive seasons. Only one team has reached the final four twice in the last four seasons. Only one has reached the title game twice in the last four opportunities. That of course would be Gonzaga. The Bulldogs in fact have been so successful in the tournament over the years that their expectations are rivaled by only the true blue bloods of the game. Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas. That is where Mark Few has positioned this program. But is it enough? No. They must reach the top of the mountain one time to validate all that has been achieved in the past. Just one title will ease the pain of the Dickau’s, Turiaf’s, Stepp’s, Sabonis’s, and Timme’s that came before only to fall short.
Does Gonzaga have what it takes to win a title? Yes, and no. They certainly have the coaching. Few’s system, particularly on offense is unrivaled in efficiency year after year. Defensively they have improved mightily over the last 5-10 years to become a top 10-20 defense in America. They also have the talent. Once reliant on digging up gold from far away places and many countries, the Zags now can walk into any living room in America and compete with Duke and Kentucky for just about anyone. So what’s the problem? Toughness and athleticism. Nearly every star Gonzaga has ever had would be considered more of a finesse player than a power player. Finesse players are great. You need footwork like Timme and lankiness like Holmgren to win consistently. But where is the 22-year-old veteran who has been through the wars of the SEC or the ACC and can live to tell about it? Where is the 6-9 255 pound load with muscles to spare that can physically intimidate teams like Arkansas? Where is the bulldog perimeter defender that completely takes the opposition out of what they want to do? That is the next and final step for Few. Continue to recruit the five stars, continue to redshirt and develop the four stars and supplement with grown men. Then and only then can they reach the top of the mountain instead of getting knocked off it halfway to the top.