The Gonzaga Bulldogs, as usual, were careful to be politically correct with their comments to the media after a convincing beat-down of Saint Mary’s in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament last week.
Mind you, Gonzaga players rarely make comments that are deliberately boring or uninteresting. They do, however, follow the lead of their coach by avoiding comments that incite villagers to attack them with blazing torches.
It would seem to make sense that the team voted No. 1 in both major polls the past two weeks would earn one of the four No. 1 seeds when the NCAA tournament field is announced today.
Of course, common sense is often in short supply when the NCAA gets involved, so the Bulldogs – 31-2 with 14 straight wins – say they will wait patiently
for the hour-long selection show (3 p.m., Ch. 7).
“In my opinion, I believe we should be (a No. 1 seed),” Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk said after Monday’s title game in Las Vegas.
Olynyk was quick to add: “It doesn’t matter what I think.”
Coach Mark Few wouldn’t even go so far as to say – directly, anyway – that he thinks his team deserves the first No. 1 seed in school history.
“I just say we’ve controlled everything that’s been put before us, and we’ve done an amazing job,” Few said. “I think it’s going to be hard on all of us that first weekend. One seed, two seed; it’s going to be hard for anybody. It’s that kind of year.”
Perhaps, but the fact is, a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament since the field (which now consists of 68 teams) expanded from 48 teams in 1985. Since then, No. 1 seeds have won 16 of 28 championships, with No. 2 seeds claiming four titles.
“If they give us a two (second seed), we’re not going to be mad,” Olynyk said. “We’ll just go out and play our game as a two seed. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I don’t care,” senior forward Elias Harris said. “Whatever it’s going to be Sunday is fine with me.
“We’ve got to play basketball. At the end of the day, the seed’s not going to get you the championship.”
Few said he’s “sure” Gonzaga is headed to Salt Lake City or San Jose to open the tournament. He also said a No. 1 seed has “been a goal for us that I’ve been throwing out to those guys down the stretch.
“We’ve got a saying in our program: Just control what you can control. We did a great job controlling what we can control.”
Voting in the polls is another matter the Bulldogs can’t control, so they brush off those who wonder aloud if the No. 1 team in the land can come out of a tiny Catholic school in Spokane that plays in an non-power conference.
“You have to take it with a grain of salt,” Olynyk said. “Everyone has their own opinion.”
That includes Olynyk and his teammates. They’re proud to be No. 1 in the polls, but they’re far more interested in being No. 1 when the champion is determined April 8.
“I don’t really feel the target on our back,” Olynyk said. “We have been playing great ball all year. We believe in ourselves, we believe in our coaches, we believe in our teammates.
“We are just going to go out and play our game. We can’t focus on rankings and other things. If we play our game, everything will take care of itself.”