SALT LAKE CITY — Gonzaga was No. 1, yet never really played like it in the NCAA Tournament.
Not in Thursday’s second-round game, when the Zags struggled against 16th-seeded Southern of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
And not late Saturday against ninth-seeded Wichita State, which nearly buried the Bulldogs in the first half.
Now Gonzaga is gone, its résumé of 15 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 32 victories this season meaning little after being knocked out of the West Regional 76-70 by a barrage of Wichita State three-pointers.
“I don’t even know what’s going through my head right now,” forward Elias Harris said.
“It’s just over now and it’s sad. It hurts, but that’s life I guess.”
The suddenness of how Gonzaga’s dreams came crashing down was felt by teammate Michael Hart.
“We’ll look back and savor this year and cherish it,” the guard said.
“But it’s pretty rough right now because we definitely came up short of where we were looking for.”
Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker scored 16 points each, and the Shockers hit five straight three-pointers late for the victory.
Gonzaga became the first top seed to be eliminated this year, giving all the Zags doubters an I-told-you-so moment.
Coach Mark Few said the Zags are what they are.
“We’re not overly athletic,” he said. “We’re based on just playing together and we have a high level of skill, good size and play hard and play pretty efficient.
“Wichita State is a hot team right now.”
The Shockers (28-8), whose motto is “play angry,” advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
Gonzaga will lose Harris and Hart. But Kelly Olynyk (26 points) is only a junior and Kevin Pangos (19 points) is a sophomore, as is top perimeter defender Gary Bell Jr., who played only 21 minutes on Saturday because of a foot injury.
Few preferred to look at the bright spots.
“To have the best season in the history of basketball at our school and kind of capture the attention of a nation, it was one hell of a ride,” he said. “We had a lot of fun.”