If Gonzaga is going to make its way to the Final Four for the second time in its history and win its first NCAA national championship, they're likely going to have to beat a couple of teams they've already encountered during this magical yet weird year.
As the overall No. 1 seed in the field and the 1 seed in the West Region, the Bulldogs have what some would argue is the easiest path to the promised land. But revenge will be on the minds of several teams that could play their way into the Zags' path. Virginia, Kansas and Iowa were all among Gonzaga's early victims in the 2020-21 season, and they all lurk in the West Region. USC, Oregon and Creighton are other potentially bothersome teams in Gonzaga's quarter of the draw.
First up for Gonzaga? The winner of a Norfolk State/Appalachian State play-in game happening Thursday. The winner will be the 16 seed and looking to become only the second 16 to ever win an NCAA tournament game. Don't bet on that happening.
If the Zags take care of business in that game, they'll face off against either Oklahoma or Missouri to make the Sweet 16. Neither squad is in the same league as Gonzaga this year, but both could be dangerous. Oklahoma has a tourney-experienced coach in Lon Kruger and boasts wins this year against Alabama, Kansas and West Virginia (twice) — all teams seeded 3 or higher in the tournament. Missouri has wins against tourney teams Oregon, Illinois, Wichita State and Alabama on its resume, but stumbled to end the season, going 3-6 their last nine games. Neither the Sooners nor the Tigers should keep the Zags out of the Sweet 16, but stranger things have happened. It's not called March Madness for nothing. ♦
Gonzaga starts its NCAA tournament against either Norfolk State or Appalachian State on Saturday, March 20 at 6:20 pm Pacific on TBS.