After losing Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris, and Mike Hart from a season ago, I think most Gonzaga fans would call a 28-6 season a large success. That said, with that record, I think we'd also be surprised by the fact that the Zags would enter as your typical middle-of-the-pack 8-seed.
When looking back at the season, however, there are a few moments that we can really point to when evaluating how Mark Few's squad got to this point. For these purposes, I think it is only fair to divide up the 'moments' into a good moment and a bad one. It was a very, very eventful season for the Zags that produced a plethora of moments that could have been chosen but let's examine a couple of the biggest of the year.
On the 'not so good' side, I think we need to revisit how the 28-6 Bulldogs became an 8-seed. Unfortunately, due to this program residing in the West Coast Conference, the Zags really only have about 30-40 days to amass 'quality' wins for their tournament resume. Unlike years past which featured 4-6 nonconference games against ranked, BCS opponents, the schedule was quite light on tournament teams. The one exception was the Maui Invitational.
In Maui, the path was pretty clear. Take down Dayton in the first round and then get to play teams like Baylor, Syracuse, Cal, etc. One or two games (and possible early season wins) against those kind of teams could have had a massive impact - especially when you consider that Dayton turned itself into a tournament team. Unfortunately, we are all well aware of the fact that the Bulldogs fell to Dayton and rather than get the chance to take on a couple more tourney teams, they went on to beat Chaminade and Arkansas in the consolation side. When you review all the tournament information on the Zags, the biggest negative mark is that lack of a true quality nonconference win. While taking down Kansas State and Memphis would have also helped, I think that Maui was the true defining rough patch of the year that had the biggest impact.
On the good side, I think you have to look at some of the resilience and toughness shown by this team during the West Coast Conference season when injuries were amassing. For me, the moment that will stick out as truly defining was January 29th's road game at Santa Clara.
I think losing against Santa Clara could have sent this team into a pretty large tailspin as they were just a few weeks removed from a road loss to Portland and a few days removed from a near loss against San Diego. It was truly one of the ugliest wins in recent memory as Gonzaga shot just 35% from the floor and played in a generally sloppy fashion. That said, with time running down and Gonzaga running one of their classic 'end-of-game' plays, Sam Dower went ahead and did this:
Thanks to Peter for the awesome .gif.
What do you think? When you look back on 2013-14 regular season, what are a few of the moments (good or bad) that really defined this season. Let's hear it!