The Next Gonzaga: Which Mid-Major Is On The Path Towards Being Elite?

For nearly two decades, fans of men's college basketball could count on the Gonzaga Bulldogs having a successful regular season, getting folks hopes up for a deep tournament run, only to shatter dreams and brackets by the end of the first weekend. A wager on the Bulldogs faltering before their ranking and record would suggest was as good as playing with house money. However, like this winner casino review, Gonzaga finally hit the big payoff this year, advancing to the school's first Final Four in program history over their rival Jesuit mid-major brethren in the Xavier Musketeers.

Head Coach Mark Few has his best team in the 18 years he's been at the helm. He has Nigel Williams-Goss as a steadily efficient floor general whose on-court smarts stand out where other guards' decision-making abilities have lacked in crucial moments. Anchoring the interior is beard model and probable polar bear Przemek Karnowski, who forced Xavier to double team him in the post, resulting in many open looks for Gonzaga's three-point shooters. While Gonzaga deserves much praise for this achievement, they now leave a void. Which non-traditional program will overcome that hump and make it to the final weekend?

We can start with the aforementioned Xavier Musketeers. This Ohio-based school has had some notable names man the sidelines, such as Skip Prosser, Thad Matta and Sean Miller. Including this year, this is their third Elite Eight appearance since 2000, and they've made it to the second weekend 11 times in that same span. They've certainty been a model of consistency. However, I'm not sure if the college basketball landscape cares enough about Xavier to put pressure on the program to win. They also have not had the elite regular season success Gonzaga has. So demanding Xavier to make that deep run in March seems unfair, even if they're not that small of a program.

There are also schools that have grown to prominence this decade. Teams like Wichita State and SMU have been highly ranked and trendy picks to win a few tournament games in the past few years. But even these programs seem fairly young in their successes, so to expect a Final Four--or in Wichita State's case, another Final Four--from them is rather lofty.

In summation, the next program to follow Gonzaga as the one we pressure to make a Final Four is still in its developmental stages. Though Mark Few's teams had often fallen short of our expectations, we must give tremendous credit to him actually building a sustainable culture of winning. One might say the West Coast Conference isn't the toughest in the country, but those mid-major conferences usually rotate champions every few years. Gonzaga has been the staple of the WCC because of Few and the classes of players being dominant. Longevity breeds expectation, but it also cannot be achieved without excellence, and excellence is defined by sustained greatness.

So, to that next school out there, keep winning and taking calculated gambles that help you get over the top. Maybe there will be a school that will achieve the same success Gonzaga has, only to obliterate brackets year after year.

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