The show-stoppingest of all Zag stats
03-16-18

If you knew only some of the story of the Gonzaga-North Carolina Greensboro game Thursday, you’d be absolutely convinced the Zags would right about now be boarding a charter flight from Boise to Spokane and pondering a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.

Against UNC-C, the Zags:

-- Made five threes on 23 attempts.

-- Shot 42.4 percent overall.

-- Made 13 of 25 free throws.

-- Were outrebounded, 44-39.

Here’s how long it’s been since any of those things happened: Not since the opener of the WCC tournament against Loyola Marymount has GU shot more poorly from the foul line. Not since Feb. 8 against Pacific have the Zags shot more poorly from the field. Not since the first Saint Mary’s game Jan. 18 has Gonzaga been outrebounded.

And I don’t know how long it’s been since GU was as abysmal from three-point range. I went back through every game this season, and concluded it goes back more than a year.

But guess what? Ultimately, none of that mattered, because Gonzaga survived, 68-64, and therein lies a continuing story.

In Gonzaga’s golden 20-year run of consecutive NCAA-tournament appearances, the Zags are now 17-3 in first-round games, which in itself is a stunning percentage (85 percent). But what really drives the point home is GU’s average seed in those 20 tournaments:

Amazingly, it’s 6.45, an emphatic counterpart to an old narrative of Gonzaga as tournament underachiever.

You just don’t go 17-3 for 20 years as a six seed, actually a little poorer, in this tournament. If you’re Duke or North Carolina or Kansas and you’re getting a one, two or three seed every year, it’s manageable, but not as a six.

In the 20 years, Gonzaga has been a one or two seed a total of four times. But it’s been a double-digit seed six times.

And -- plug for research in “Glory Hounds” here -- a 10th straight victory in the opening round of the tournament pushes Gonzaga to a tie for No. 7 all-time in that metric, with Duke (which has done it twice) and Stanford.

The 10 straight is the second-longest ongoing streak to that of 12 by Kansas, which bumped its string with a first-round win over Penn.


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