A new chapter of the Gonzaga legacy is unfolding in front of our eyes, and it is a beautiful sight.
That seems a bit intense to say for a team that has been in the NCAA Tournament longer than its incoming recruits have been alive, but it is true. Tomorrow, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will face off the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. It is only the second time the Gonzaga Bulldogs have made back-to-back Sweet 16s in school history.
Granted, that history isn't exactly the longest. After all, the Zags only started dancing to the music in the late 90s. But between 2001 and 2015, there were a lot of clunky losses. I've already written before how I'm a firm believer that the Zags aren't big chokers in March, just often times got some unlucky draws.
But there are some solid missed opportunities. In 2004, the Zags were a No. 2 seed. In 2005, a No. 3 seed, and in 2006 a No 3 seed. In 2004 and 2005, the run stopped in the second round, and in 2006, it was the Sweet 16.
Other than that, there realistically hasn't been the opportunity for the Zags to establish themselves as one of the premier teams in March. Sure, the Bulldogs got their first No. 1 seed in 2013, but that was bookended by a 2012 No. 7 seed and a 2014 No. 8 seed.
Tomorrow night, the Zags are on the verge of something great. They have the chance to send this team into consecutive Elite Eights for the first time ever. They will have done it for the second time in school history as a double-digit seed.
And in a weird way, this all seems like just the beginning, all over again. Gonzaga might theoretically have two players drafted in the NBA Draft for the first time in school history. Or Domantas Sabonis will come back and join the highest-rated recruiting class in school history that is joined by a class of incoming transfers who should count as their own highly-rated recruiting class.
In the process, the team has grown from a squad that relies on a high-octane offense to a team that also sports a reputable defense. The Gonzaga way now means a devotion to scrappy and physical ball play as much as it does to the entire team being best friends. Year in, year out, chemistry amongst the players is raw, real, and tight. A lot of teams can't say that.
The future is looking brighter than it ever has with this team. The scary thing is that we have said that before.
Considering where the Zags were a mere month ago, this NCAA Tournament has really changed the narrative on the season, and rightfully so. The Zags went back to the way of getting things done exactly how they used to get things done--as the team everyone thinks should be an easy pushover and proving them wrong on the court.
This season has been a roller coaster of emotions. But like all roller coasters, it has to come to an end at some point. That may come on Friday, that may come later down the road. Until then, all we can do is savor every minute of basketball we get to watch this team play. This team is carving out its own special place in the annals of this basketball team, and it has been a blast to watch.