It was like finally opening that gift that you always wanted. And even though you knew what was inside, the excitement was suffocating. Today, The Gonzaga University Men’s Basketball Team is the #1 team in the nation. Not Duke, Indiana, Kansas or Georgetown, but little ‘ol Gonzaga. Being number 1 in anything is an amazing achievement. It’s what many of us work for every day. Whether it’s at work or through sports, deep down you want to be the best. Gonzaga Basketball has now had that historic climb to the top of the college basketball polls. It’s the first time the Bulldogs have been ranked No.1 and the Zags now join the Eastern Washington University Football team as a local team in one of the major college sports to be names No.1 and Whitworth University’s Basketball team which became the first D-3 team ever in the west to be ranked #1 in 2006. Of course, The Eagles Football Team has not only been #1 a few times, they also won the National Championship. Which is on a completely different planet when it comes to actually being number one.
So what does literally being the top dog mean? Well for those that follow sports, in the big picture, it doesn’t really mean a lot in the regular season. It is fun to talk about and certainly is a life experience for The Zags’ players that they will never forget. It’s something they’ve earned and that the players, the school, the students and the community can be proud of. But outside of the media requests, I’d bet the coaches and players are not talking about it anymore. They have the bigger goal in mind. Being #1 in the regular season is just a number. The WCC Tournament. The Elite 8. The Final 4. A National Championship? This is what is actually on their mind. Fans can argue whether they should even be the number one team in all the land. “They don’t play in a big or tough conference!” “They have an easier schedule!” “They aren’t a major university!” Those are comments that are ACTUALLY being said out loud. And all of them are frivolous. The fact is they won. And won again. And kept winning. Not a college coach in America will tell you that what Gonzaga has just done is easy. This is 20 years in the making. And this season alone, they went through conference play unbeaten. While other teams couldn’t get it done, sometimes losing to lesser and unranked teams, Gonzaga did. That is one of the hardest things to do at any level. Conference play is so stressful and so difficult that you almost beg to finally get to the Big Dance just to see other teams.
Maybe now the national sportscasters will finally learn how to say Gonzaga. But even if they get it wrong, no matter how they say it, following it with “is number 1” sure does sound good. And it’s a hard earned gift for a great university, coaching staff, players and community.