When the Gonzaga Bulldogs made their first surprising run to the Elite Eight under coach Dan Monson in 1999, the headlines referred to the Bulldogs as "Tiny Gonzaga." Funny how no one refers to the Zags as tiny anymore, even though the school's undergraduate enrollment still hovers around 4,000 (roughly the same size as the Psych 101 lecture section at my big, impersonal state university).
The university is small in size, but the basketball team looms very large in Division I. At 25-2 and a perfect 12-0 in West Coast Conference play, Gonzaga is ranked No. 3 in the nation, and my colleague Joe Lunardi currently projects the Zags as a No. 1 seed in the West region.
We haven't seen a team from outside the six "major" conferences seeded on the top line since Memphis received that honor in the 2008 tournament. The fact that Gonzaga (which host Santa Clara on Wednesday night -- 11 ET, ESPNU) might be a No. 1 seed next month marks the Bulldogs as unique among recent mid-major teams. It also raises a question: Could this be the year that a mid-major wins the national championship?