I usually follow this site pretty closely, but I rarely post; last night's loss changed that.
After a sleepless night, I've come to the conclusion that this was the worst loss our program has ever suffered. I'm even including the UCLA game (I'll never forget how melancholy our entire campus was after that; I can't imagine what it is like now). This team seemingly had everything going for them this year: good offensive attack, (relatively) good defense, a star player in Olynyk, wide-open bracket; yet, like almost every Gonzaga team, they were burned by the three-ball in March. A part of me wants to think it was just bad luck and that Wichita State is probably going to get bounced by Ole Miss/La Salle after shooting 2 for 20 from deep again, but now I'm not so sure. Time after time we Zag fans get disappointed in March. The question is, where do we go from here?
Do we keep calling for Mark Few's job or hope he leaves? That doesn't really seem like an option to me. For better or worse Few has become the face of the program and I don't think anyone in the administration is going to fire him, no matter how bad things are in March. Every time there is a big job opening, it seems pretty clear that Few is not interested. As his kids get older, his desire to leave will probably only lessen. I'm sure his name will be thrown around for the UCLA job, but a) I don't think UCLA is that interested in Few and b) I don't think he'd take the job on the rare chance it was offered to him.
So we are seemingly stuck with Mark Few. Now what?
Well, we as fans could adjust our expectations and be content with manhandling the WCC year in and year out, maybe throw a Sweet Sixteen (or God forbid) an Elite 8 appearance in there every five-six years. I don't know about the rest of you, but there is no way I'm willing to do that. Despite all the setbacks, I firmly believe this program can compete with the best. And, to be frank, during the regular season they have; it's just March that has been brutal.
The program could try and move to another conference. It seemed like this year was the year for that; the Big East fell apart and the Catholic 7 wanted to form their own basketball-only league. Maybe this story hasn't been written yet, but it appears that geography got in the way for the GU. Out in Spokane there only seem to be two viable conference options left: Pac-12 and Mtn. West. The rumors floating around when I was a student was that the Pac-12 wouldn't take us without football. I don't see a school with our resources trying to field a D-1 football team, so that leaves the Mtn. West. I personally think this could work, Hawaii is in as a football-only member, why not Gonzaga in all sports except football? Would our teams dominate and win championships every year? Probably not. But at least they'd be better prepared for the tourney.
Another, less likely, possibility is that Few adjusts his coaching philosophy and/or his recruiting. Last night was the perfect example of how his teams can sometimes get exposed for playing poor perimeter defense. There was a lot of poor positioning and non-existent commitment to continually close-out on their shooters. These type of mistakes are fixable with the players GU recruits. I was at the Butler game. Their perimeter guys were no more athletic than ours, but they played tenacious perimeter d--it's time our guys learn to do the same. I can only hope that it (finally) dawns on Few that in today's college game locking down the perimeter is crucial to winning. Maybe this loss will do it. You would have figured tourney games like Davidson, BYU, Syracuse, WKU, would have done the job, but here's to hoping.
The other thing we can do is go out and recruit more athletic players. I'm not sure how we go about doing this, given our limitations. Getting guys like Coleman and Nunez will hopefully allow us more exposure on the East Coast. I'm also hoping Tommy Lloyd will keep brining in good international recruits. I also think the coaching staff needs to embrace this failure and use it as a recruiting tool. Much like the Red Sox were able to find a group of players that didn't give a damn about curses, I think Gonzaga needs to recruit kids that expect to be number 1 and aren't going to let the failures of the past weigh on them. There was a lot of flak in the media about how this team wasn't deserving of a number 1 ranking or a 1 seed. This team clearly let all this negativity get to them. If they play like they did in the regular season, before being number 1, I think they would be playing basketball next weekend in LA. In short, we need players who see Gonzaga's past as a challenge to be embraced and not as a series of demons that need to be exorcised.
This, in part, goes for us as fans too. The 1999 season is over. So is the 2013. All we can do is put the past behind us and move forward. I can't wait for next year. I hope the same is true for the rest of you.
P.S. I was also hoping this post could serve as a way for opening up discussion; I look forward to reading your opinions.