Trying to Get Over the Hump
Ever since they reached their second NCAA tournament in 1999, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have become an annual fixture in the Big Dance each March. But they’ve yet to take the next step and break through to a Final Four the way other fellow mid-major schools like Butler, George Mason and VCU have done since 2006.
Some might say Gonzaga paved the way for those programs, however.
Former Gonzaga head coach Dan Monson took the Bulldogs as far as the ’99 West Regional Finals, where they were just a few buckets from beating eventual national champion Connecticut and going to their first Final Four.
As current Gonzaga head coach Mark Few took over the following year, the Bulldogs went from a surprise Cinderella to representing the lesser-known West Coast Conference as an eventual national power.
Although Few has certainly had his success at Gonzaga, the Bulldogs initially went further as underdogs than they did after evolving into favorites, and they haven’t been back to the Elite Eight since Monson took them there.
Gonzaga went to the Sweet Sixteen as a double-digit seed in each of Few’s first two years with the program. But the Bulldogs had consecutive second-round exits, as a 2-seed in 2004 and as a 3-seed in 2005. Gonzaga did get back to the Sweet 16 the following year, again as a 3-seed, but went no further.
In 2009, the Bulldogs went to their fifth Sweet 16 (and fourth under Few), but their run once again stalled there, as a 4-seed.
Four years later, the Bulldogs thought 2013 could be their time after they garnered their first No. 1 ranking in a national poll and their only top seed in the NCAA tournament.
But 9-seeded Wichita State ended those dreams early, in the third round, en route to its own Final Four appearance.
Next season, though, could finally be the year that Gonzaga makes the same trip.