It’s easy now, with the benefit of hindsight, to suggest you always expected Gonzaga to take a 36-1 record into the school’s first Final Four.
But it’s also a lie.
Because nobody expected this team to be this good.
The Zags were 13th in the preseason Coaches poll, 14th in the preseason AP poll and 22nd at KenPom when they opened with Utah Valley. And yet they’ve still — with a roster featuring five double-digit scorers who weren’t even on the team that played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament — won 36 of 37 games and recorded seven top-25 RPI victories. They’ve beaten the Arizona team that won the Pac-12, the Florida and Xavier teams that made the Elite Eight, the West Virginia and Iowa State teams that tied for second in the Big 12 … and Saint Mary’s three times. They’re ranked No. 1 at KenPom thanks to an offensive efficiency rating that ranks 14th and a defensive efficiency rating that is the nation’s best. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Gonzaga is both awesome and better than anybody could’ve reasonably predicted. That’s among the reasons Mark Few is the CBS Sports National Coach of the Year.
UNC’s Roy Williams is a fine alternative option.
So is Oregon’s Dana Altman.
South Carolina’s Frank Martin, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Baylor’s Scott Drew, SMU’s Tim Jankovich, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, Butler’s Chris Holtmann and Northwestern’s Chris Collins also make some sense. But Few is the obvious pick, if only because he earned a No. 1 seed with a West Coast Conference program and then guided the Zags to the Final Four. Think about that. Few has been so terrific in 18 years as a head coach that it’s not even too surprising that he has a West Coast Conference program in the Final Four.
Will Few win two more games for a national title?
But for the purposes of this honor, it doesn’t matter. Win or lose Saturday, he’s still the right selection for National Coach of the Year. Because Mark Few took what Dan Monson left him in 1999 and turned it into a legitimate national power. The Zags are good every season without exception. But they’ve been great this season. And their coach deserves credit for making them that way and recognizing everything he dreams of accomplishing can, against all odds, be accomplished in Spokane.