While all of the Gonzaga players were busy retweeting pics and celebrating their victory over the Saint Mary's Gaels in the WCC Tournament championship game, one tweet stood out above the rest.
Przemek Karnowski, who hasn't played a game in what seems like an eternity, put it best.
Couldn't be more proud of my team. Seeing how much adversity they had to overcome throughout the whole season shows how tough they are!!!!!!— Przemek Karnowski (@PKarnowski) March 9, 2016
This is the 2015-16 Gonzaga Bulldogs season in its most concise form possible.
Here is a list of things going against Gonzaga this season.
- They lost 3/5 of their starting lineup from last year
- They lost Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, guards who have run the team for the past four years
- They replaced said guards with a backcourt that combined inexperience (Silas Melson and Josh Perkins) with newcomers in different ways (Eric McClellan)
- They lost their senior starting center Przemek Karnowski, and one of the best all around centers in the NCAA, to a season ending injury
- To add insult to injury, they lost their lone backup big man, Ryan Edwards, to injury for much of the NCAA Tournament
And then there were the losses. Somehow, each loss was more painful than the last. The Zags dropped a hard fought game by one point to Texas A&M. They coughed up a second-half lead to Arizona to lose by five points. They were dropped by UCLA at home by five points. BYU stole one in Spokane by one point. Saint Mary's came back from a huge second-half deficit to win by three points. By January 21, the Zags were 14-5 with five losses totaling 15 points.
At that point, the damage almost seemed done. Gonzaga had run out of most of their chances to show the NCAA Tournament selection committee that they had a resume deserving to be in dancing in March. Still, despite all of it, what made it all so frustrating, is that most of us knew that what we had seen from the team for the better part of the first half of the season wasn't the team we knew we had.
The team we had is the team that has showed up for the past four games. These Zags rolled into BYU and secured a huge victory on the road to close out the season. These Zags went into the WCC Tournament and took everything the conference could throw at them and gutted out the wins. Against BYU and Saint Mary's, the Zags held the lead for virtually the entire game.
Some people didn't think the Zags had the mettle, but the team knew they had the mettle. They just needed time to find it.
They got it in big ways from Eric McClellan down the stretch, whose senior leadership and voice became quite evident in the HBO show. Silas Melson, after a disastrous start to the season, found his place and provided a huge bench spark for a crucial point of the season. Most importantly, Josh Perkins, who attracted such an incredible amount of criticism throughout much of the season, established himself slowly, but surely, as a reliable scoring option for the Zags at point.
And it all happened just in time. It is the funny part of being on the outside looking in here. The team knew it was struggling, and the team responded, like deep down, we all knew they would respond.
Gonzaga is dancing for the 18th-straight year. That is an insane mark, and nothing anyone says or thinks can take away from these players how hard they fought to make it happen this year.
Przemek Karnowski, the most unexpected cheerleader for this team, said it best. They fought tooth and nail through this season, and they gutted out some hard fought wins when it mattered most. This is what life is like when you are Gonzaga, and this squad showed that they know exactly what it means to be Zags.