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NCAA Tournament Recap: Zags' glimpse of brilliance falls flat against BYU

It has been said that pictures say a thousand words.  This one might say a million.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
It has been said that pictures say a thousand words. This one might say a million. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Stupidly blindsided is probably the best way to describe my mindset since Gonzaga fell to BYU on Saturday evening.  As I sat at a bar in lower downtown Denver, I tweeted something to the effect of "judging from the whole year, I shouldn't be surprised, but I can't help but be surprised about this".  I think that this is the way most Gonzaga fans are feeling across the country as well.  Since the game - and Gonzaga's season - came to an abrupt end, it has been hard to truly define what exactly happened.  Was it simply Jimmer Fredette and BYU's night that no one was going to stop or are the events more indicative of the way March has been for Gonzaga over the past few years?  This question (and previously said bar) have delayed an official wrap up post and it is likely that the following is going to be fragmented at best.

It would truly be impossible for me to sit here and write that the ball simply didn't bounce Gonzaga's way against BYU.  For as good as Gonzaga was against St. John's on Thursday, BYU was that much better on Saturday.  In every facet of the game, to be honest, the Cougars were dominant.  It starts with shot making and intelligent shot taking and that aspect of the game wasn't even close - at all.  The Bulldogs were 42% from the floor and that number even feels inflated.  BYU, on the other hand, was simply outstanding.   A 52% display from the field, including shooting 50% from beyond the arc was what BYU finished with.  Jimmer aside, I was blown away by how the Cougars ran sets and managed to get open looks.  Beginning with Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock, I could not believe how easily they were able to get free outside and get off quality looks.  Fredette's 34 point barrage was enormous, but the one thing most Gonzaga fans didn't account for was Hartstock and Emery combining for 29 points with great efficiency.

more after the jump...

While BYU's performance deserves plenty of praise, there was something so comically painful about watching this Gonzaga team go from peak to valley in two days. 

It wasn't much of a secret that the recent success of Gonzaga over the past month or so was fragile.  This is a team that doesn't have a player like Jimmer that can hide other issues with a huge offensive explosion.  That came through very, very clearly on Saturday.  At some points, it felt as though this team had completely regressed back to two or three month ago's version.  Marquise Carter and Demetri Goodson played 50 more minutes than I did against BYU but only managed to put up one more point than I recorded.  Robert Sacre's issues in the post dealing with added pressure came back once again as he had an extremely difficult time holding the ball and turned it over five times.  Steven Gray just didn't have it.  Gray was 6-16 from the field and a number of those attempts were straight chucks.  He turned the ball over three times and flirted with doubling that number as he was particularly tentative and seemingly lazy with the ball.

It is hard to find positives but the collective power forward play from Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk was fun to watch.  Kelly, while playing limited minutes, has really impressed me over the past two games and I hope that it carries over to next season.  A player that has largely slumped this season, Kelly was confident shooting the basketball in Denver and did not make the mental mistakes that we have seen from him all year.  Elias Harris was vintage Elias.  He was attacking and on a team that seemed to be asleep at the wheel, Harris was doing his part to keep Gonzaga in the game.  He finished with 18 points on 8-12 shooting and grabbed eight boards.

There's a lot more that can be said following an exit like that.  It will be interesting to see how fans around here label this season.  Two months ago, any type of tournament win (perhaps even being in the tourney) would be called a resounding success.   Does that still ring true today?  Did this team live up to their potential?  I go back and forth on that.  I'd say yes in that all year long, I saw nothing but an inconsistent team.  If that's what they are, than that is what their potential is.  But then, you look at that St. John's game and it is hard to say yes.  It is still my opinion that the answer is likely yes because I don't think the talent level on the team could have taken them any further. 

We plan to bury this one and move on with broader recaps and more recruiting stuff soon but, for now, share your final thoughts on Gonzaga's 2011 NCAA Tournament in the comments below.  Go Zags.