Mar 18, 2011, 2:24 AM EDT
Gonzaga’s days as a double-digit seed are long gone. The Zags are one of college basketball’s proudest programs, racking up conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances at a rate most teams could only dream.
But they’re proudest moments in the Big Dance? Those came during those double-digits days when nobody knew just how good they were.
Now the Bulldogs, an 11 seed in the Southeast Region, could get the underdog label despite it being undeserved. Call it the perfect mix of motivation and situation.
The Zags are good, and far better than their seed would indicate. St. John’s certainly found that out during Gonzaga’s 86-71 win on Thursday.
“I think people know we’re a good program so it doesn’t surprise them anymore,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We certainly didn’t consider ourselves an underdog in this game.
“When this matchup popped up, we were excited to play. We’re playing the best basketball we have all year.”
The Bulldogs (25-9) jumped out to a 15-point lead thanks to their impressive frontcourt, but guards Marquise Carter and Steve Gray also clicked. They combined for 40 points and 11 assists. Overall, the Zags hit 54 percent of their shots and an eFG% of 62.5. That’s good no matter who you are.
Also in the Zags’ favor: They were a preseason Top 25 team, filled with talented players and were expected to thrive. But until they caught fire late (they’ve won 10 straight), few expected much out of them. That places them in the mold of an underachiever who could thrive in the NCAA tournament.
Sounds like the perfect chance for knocking off 3-seed BYU on Saturday — and potentially making that long-awaited run to the Final Four.
“I think we’ll match up pretty good,” Carter said. “Just looking forward to being able to play the next game.”
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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