On December 5, with 17 minutes left in the second half off of a Domantas Sabonis bucket, the Zags led the Arizona Wildcats by 10 points. They would lose that game, 68-63.
On January 14, with 12 minutes left in the second half off of a Ryan Edwards bucket, the Zags led BYU by 13 points. They would lose that game, 69-68.
Now, we can add January 21 to the mix. With 6:55 remaining coming off of a Kyle Dranginis three pointer, the Zags led Saint Mary's by 10. They would lose that game, 70-67.
Throw in a near miss against Texas A&M, and a game that they just couldn't keep up with in UCLA, and Gonzaga has now lost five games by a combined 15 points.
This is absolutely maddening.
The thing is, each of these games could have been winnable. The Texas A&M and UCLA losses sting the least, because both of those games went as some basketball games go. Texas A&M and Gonzaga battled back and forth for the better part of 40 minutes with the Aggies getting the win. That happens. UCLA showed up to humble Gonzaga on its home court and was the better team for much of the game. Those games happens.
These other three games, however, absolutely maddening.
We can point fingers all we want. We can chalk this up as proof that Mark Few is apparently a terrible coach, as if making the NCAA Tournament 16 times out of 16 seasons you've been coach is just something that happens with ease. We can point the fingers at our young guards. We can point the fingers at our bigs. But at the end of the day, this is a collective failure on the team, not just one person.
The thing is, good teams will lose to good teams. That is how college basketball works. And for everyone that will inevitably say, I don't think we are a good team. I ask you then, what the hell is a good team? We aren't a bad team, by any stretch. We are 14-5 with five losses to borderline ranked teams. That doesn't make us a great team, but we are a bit better than a neutral team as well. But those five losses sting, because each of those losses is one less opportunity for the Zags to walk into the NCAA Tournament as if nothing happened this year.
This squad has had a lot of adversity to overcome. Young, inconsistent guard play and an injury to your starting senior center would be more than enough to send any team tumbling, regardless of whether or not you are Gonzaga, Mount St. Mary's, or Kentucky.
The Zags have lost five games so far this year. In 2006-07, the Zags lost 11 games. In 2010-11, the Zags lost 10 games. For all the negatives that people love to string together, at the end of the day, the Zags have five losses to five good teams. There isn't a single black eye on this resume, but there isn't a lot of lip gloss on it either.
There are still statement games for Gonzaga to make. They have a game on the road against the only undefeated team in the nation in SMU. They have what no doubt will be a huge revenge game against Saint Mary's at home, and BYU on the road to close out the conference play.
Realistically, at the beginning of the year, we knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride. No one probably expected this, but sports are part of life, and life loves those curveballs.