When the ball drops tonight in Times Square and 2013 comes to a close in the United States, it will be the end of one of the most amazing years in the history of Gonzaga University. While that may sound dramatic and exaggerated, when you stack up what really went on in the last twelve months, I can assure you that it will blow you away. As Gonzaga fans, we are used to running the gamut of emotions...mainly joy and depression. This year was no different but it was so fantastic when you look back on it. Gonzaga played in what many called the game of the year, they ascended to a point no team before them had gotten to, and they experienced severe anguish.
With that, let's take a look at some of the most memorable moments of 2013 in my eyes...
Miracle At Hinkle
While most of us Gonzaga fans have lived about a year now without having watched the replay again, there is no doubting that one of the biggest moments of 2013 was Butler's miracle at Hinkle Fieldhouse. With 3.5 seconds left, Gonzaga had a huge road win in the bag. All the Zags needed to do was inbound the ball, absorb a foul, hit free throws, and leave Indianapolis with a statement win. Well, that did not exactly happen as David Stockton's attempted lob to Kelly Olynyk was intercepted by Roosevelt Jones and he went on to sink one of the more amazing shots in recent memory.
This game has major meaning to me personally as I was lucky enough to be there. I say lucky with all seriousness because it was truly one of the best basketball games I have ever witnessed and I feel fortunate to have seen what I consider to be the best Gonzaga team in history live and in person.
#1 Ranking & A #1 Seed
There is no denying how magical last season was for Gonzaga. Even knowing what we know now (hint: the ending), the journey was something so special. The Zags entered the NCAA Tournament with a 31-2 record, good enough to secure them a No. 1 seed in the West region. Throughout the course of the season, they had been outstanding. Their only two losses came to Butler and Illinois, both which were ranked #13 at the time. The completely decimated the West Coast Conference, including rival Saint Mary's which they beat three times (2 wins were in double figures).
The debate raged on all throughout February and March regarding whether or not this team truly deserved the top spot and a 1-seed but it is something that you can't take away from the program.
The Wichita Barrage
After an absolutely terrifying second-round performance against Southern that nearly led to an upset, Gonzaga advanced to take on Wichita State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. From the tip, it was clear that this wasn't a game that was going to end well for the Zags. The Shockers got up as many as 13 points early on but Gonzaga never quit. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Gonzaga had actually built an 8 point lead of their own but they could not stop what was coming next. Starting at the six minute mark, Wichita State would hit five straight three-point attempts. The dagger was Fred Van Vleet's prayer with one second left on the shot clock with 1:28 remaining. That brought the Wichita lead to 70-65 and the rest is history.
The Amazing Kelly Olynyk
There are things that are explainable and then there is what Kelly Olynyk did last season. Truly, to this day, I will see old images of Olynyk and simply shake my head. As a freshman and sophomore, Olynyk was largely a non-factor for Gonzaga. He looked awkward and out of place on the court, would flash some good skills every now and then but was, for lack of a better term, a project. When he decided to redshirt after his sophomore season, many thought it would wind up turning into a transfer situation. Instead, Olynyk lived in the weight room, transformed himself from an awkward wanna-be 7' point guard into a true post player, and dominated the college basketball landscape.
Olynyk literally returned a new person. With what seemed like 100lbs of added weight and a lot more hair, Olynyk went from afterthought to All-American. He averaged 18 points and 8 boards a game as a redshirt junior for Gonzaga and, along with Elias Harris, composed one of the most formidable frontcourts in all the land. He decided to forego his senior season and was selected #13 by the Boston Celtics and is averaging 6 points and 5 boards per game.
Read: Basically Anything That Has Been Written Over The Past Year
Saying Goodbye To Elias Harris And Mike Hart
Two guys that gave everything to the program said their goodbyes at the end of last season. Harris will go down as one of the top bigs to ever come through Gonzaga and Hart was "Mr. Everything" for the Zags...
Adam Morrison Returns
One of the more surprising stories of the year was the return of Adam Morrison. No, he wasn't able to regain eligibility but he is now on the bench as a graduate assistant...
Zags Land Great 2014 Class Featuring Josh Perkins
The future remains extremely bright as Mark Few and the staff delivered an incredible 2014 class featuring blue-chip point guard Josh Perkins. Perkins is joined by elite scorer Silas Melson and California guard Bryan Alberts...
Read: 2014 Recruiting Hub
That's it! Did I miss anything? What are your favorite moments of 2013?
On a personal note, I want to thank all our loyal readers for all your contributions this year. You all truly make this place special and I can't wait to see what 2014 brings.