HBO's real-time mini-documentary series Gonzaga: The March to Madness premiered on Tuesday night much to the delight of Zag fans everywhere. I thought I'd let a few days pass before delving into the episode, so those who couldn't watch it right away would have a chance to catch up. If you haven't had a chance to watch the first episode yet, and don't want to read any spoilers, it's best that you stop reading now.
First things first, the show got off to a rocky start when HBO's lead-in narrator (not Liev Schrieber, he's great) pronounced Gonzaga, err, GonZOGuh. After that little snafu, we were taken to a trail just outside of Spokane where Mark Few and his giant German Shephard were exploring the great outdoors. Coach Few waxed poetic about the beauty of the outdoors, and the beauty of basketball. He made me want to get in the gym and hoist up a couple thousand jumpers.
Speaking of jumpers, it didn't take long for HBO to take us inside the McCarthey Athletic Center where the Zags were practicing ahead of last week's road game against Portland. I was a bit surprised that this was where the show picked up. The early press releases and rumblings around the team suggested that HBO's camera crews had been following the guys since the start of the season. I was bracing myself for the sad point in the year when Big Shem went down, so I guess I have to say thanks to HBO for not making us re-live that.
Notwithstanding the surprise of the show picking up in almost real time, the behind the scenes footage was fantastic. It was cool to see Wiltj get to spend an evening with his family the night before the Portland game. Watching him sink shot after shot on his driveway hoop with his little brother, with only headlights to illuminate the basket, made me wish I could transport that hoop to SMU. We also caught Wiltj doing some homework on the flight to Dallas, which doesn't make today's news that he, Domas, and Dranginis earned WCC All-Academic team honors for their work in the classroom.
The episode also featured some more insight into all that went into Eric McClellan becoming a Zag. It's no secret that he made some poor decisions in the past, and it was big of him to admit that and acknowledge how great of an opportunity he got from Gonzaga to turn his life around. We get frustrated at times with E-Mac's inconsistency but I'm glad that he's found a home in Spokane.
It sucked to see the locker room immediately following the SMU game. It was clear on everyone's face that they knew they let a good opportunity to build their tournament résumé slip away. A losing locker room is a tough place, but I was glad to see that in a crappy moment, all the guys owned the loss, starting with Coach Few. Let's hope next week's episode ends on a brighter note.
What did everyone think of this week's episode?