When one thinks of a mid-major “Cinderella”, probably a team such as George Mason or VCU comes to mind. In other words, it’s a no-name school that had a fluke run out of nowhere to the Final Four, resulting in great things for the head coach, but a very quick return to mediocrity for the team.
But out on the West Coast, there’s a team who like Sisyphus, the Greek God condemned to futility roll a boulder up a hill, who has approached college ball’s pinnacle weekend from every conceivable angle, only to be cruelly turned away by a blue-blood every time. That team is, of course, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, led the whole while by Mark Few, a man genuinely committed to see his team through to its final destination, whatever that may be.
This year the Bulldogs are plowing through their conference undefeated and are now the number one team in the polls with some upsets along the way. But fans have been through this song and dance before, and it always has seemed to end on a sour note.[JeffereyNewholm]
In 2014, it was Wichita State who finished the regular season undefeated, but the team, who played a cupcake Missouri Valley schedule, was shown the door very quickly in a cruelly stacked regional. One year later, Kentucky proved that blue bloods maybe aren’t so different from the little guys when John Calipari’s “blue platoon” and “white platoon” of superstars dominated a very weak SEC but had no answer in the final minutes against a balanced Wisconsin team. Unfortunately for Sisyphus, the unfortunate guy really was eternally damned to push that boulder forever. But thankfully there’s hope for redemption for all of us regular humans, and the 2017 ‘Zags may finally be able to climb the mountaintop.
Unfortunately for Sisyphus, the unfortunate guy really was eternally damned to push that boulder forever. But thankfully there’s hope for redemption for all of us regular humans, and the 2017 ‘Zags may finally be able to climb the mountaintop.
What separates the blue-bloods from the pretenders in sports is, above all else, style of play. The top teams play a straight-up, no-nonsense style of play, while the underdog always tries zany tricks. In football, an illustrative example would be comparing Alabama’s running game and fierce front seven against a seemingly endless litany of gadget plays from the Boise States of the world. In basketball, the comparison could be made of last year’s Tar Heel national finalist and that old Mason team that made the final weekend. The Heels play a bruising, physical style of
The Heels play a bruising, physical style of play and nearly out-muscled everyone en route to the championship. The Patriots just played a regular, well-balanced game and hoped the other team would be overconfident, and lo and behold, Jim Calhoun’s Huskies were all too willing to play the role of foil in the Elite Eight. Well, when one watches just a few minutes of Few’s new Bulldogs, there’s no question: the Zags
Well, when one watches just a few minutes of Few’s new Bulldogs, there’s no question: the Zags wear no glass slipper. The team has been the bully of the West Coast Conference for 18 years, and make no mistake about it: they’re no one’s underdog. They go into a gym. The other coach blathers on about an upset. The other team gets blown out. Rinse, wash, repeat – and by the time March comes around, Gonzaga will have some very clean hands to rip apart brackets.
Of course, it still seems very unlikely that a mid-major in today’s age of parity will run through the entire season undefeated and cut downs the nets in Phoenix. But this year’s Gonzaga team doesn’t need to do that. To fulfill Few’s patient vision of success, it just needs to push that boulder through four games in March before, sure as the Sun crosses the sky, it comes rolling down again, leaving the team 0-0 going into next season.