Gonzaga might not be on the same level as Duke or North Carolina when it comes to name recognition in men’s college basketball, but it has a rich history of great teams and great talent. As such, one might expect the team to be loaded with championships throughout its history. This is not the case. Despite its history, Gonzaga is yet to win an NCAA Championship.
This could be the year that everything changes, and if it does, several generations of players will breathe a sigh of relief.
Gonzaga really hasn’t won a college basketball championship?
Gonzaga’s basketball team has been around in its current form since the early ’50s. From there, however, it took nearly 40 years for the team to become the perennial contender for March Madness that it is today. Dan Fitzgerald, who took over the team in 1985, finally brought the team to the NCAA tournament a decade later when they lost in the first round.
The team would make it again in 1999 under Dan Monson, but lost in the Regional Final. After that year, however, the team brought in a new head coach in Mark Few. Few has remained with the team ever since. Under his tutelage, Gonzaga went from occasional Cinderella team who made it into the tournament to a perennial competitor in the March festivities.
Gonzaga has been in and out of the AP’s top rankings throughout Few’s tenure, with his 2013 team reaching number one before a third-round exit in that year’s tournament. It’s hard to win a championship in any league, but with more than 60 teams competing every year in March Madness, it’s even harder to do so in college basketball.
Despite the lack of championships, however, Few’s tree of NBA talent shows that he knows how to develop young players into professional athletes.
Which NBA players went to Gonzaga?
Only two players made it into the NBA out of Gonzaga before Few’s tenure. The first was an ironically-named big man, Mike Champion, who played in two games for the Seattle Supersonics and never played a game. The second player, John Stockton, rose from the obscurity that was Gonzaga in 1984 to become the 16th pick in the 1984 NBA Draft and one of the best point guards in the history of the NBA. Stockton’s son, David, also played for the school.
Under Few, the NBA output of Gonzaga has grown dramatically. In his earliest days, Ronny Turiaf, Richie Frahm, and Adam Morrison all made it into the NBA after their successful run at the school. Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk put the Zags on his back before making his name in the NBA, while All-Star Domantas Sabonis got his start at the school before following his father to the NBA.
Zach Collins, Rui Hachimura, Johnathan Williams, and Brandon Clarke all played under Few before their current NBA careers. In fact, one-third of the Gonzaga players who made it into the NBA are currently on NBA rosters. If this year’s team keeps it up, that number could grow, too.
Will this year’s team finally do it?
Gonzaga might just have its best team ever on the court today. At 27-2 through their first 29 games, the Zags might have enough to finally get Few and an entire flock of alumni their long-awaited championship. Led by the trio of Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert, and Killian Tillie, the Zags are dominating nearly every opponent, and the team’s balanced approach at games is stifling other teams.
If there’s one thing that Few knows, it is that there are no guarantees in college basketball. Despite this, he is constantly recruiting top-tier talent from across the world and helped put Gonzaga basketball on the map. If he retired tomorrow, nobody could question Few’s commitment to winning despite a lack of results.
However, with a deep roster full of players who are fully bought into Few’s system, what better time to finally break the spell and win Few an NCAA Championship?