Back in April, we wrote a piece about how the Gonzaga Bulldogs were losing a massive amount of production from last year’s team. It was the precursor to the narrative for the Gonzaga Bulldogs season: It would be a down year in Spokane, whatever that looks like.
Apparently, what a down year looks like is a Sweet 16 appearance. For that, we should be grateful, because we are in a rare realm of Gonzaga Bulldogs fandom. For four straight years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have gone onto dance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. On top of all of that, we witnessed this year happened on the 20th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament—the fourth longest current streak in the country.
Just think about that for a second. A decade ago, Sweet 16 appearances were an added bonus to come by. Now, the Sweet 16 is an expectation—a full blown given—to each Gonzaga season. Even in a year where Gonzaga loses the likes of players like Przemek Karnowski, Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, and Zach Collins, this fan base expects, and this team delivers, a Sweet 16 showing.
So congratulations to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Every single player, coach, family member, friend, anyone that made this all work this year—congratulations. The run of success didn’t continue at the level it did last year, but it provided more than enough of a bridge for the future—and the future is exciting.
We watched Zach Norvell come into his own in some big time games. We watched the evolution of Rui Hachimura throughout the course of the season. We watched Josh Perkins become the leader he needs to be. We watched the final season of one of the more underrated guards in Gonzaga history in Silas Melson. We saw the conclusion of two of the more productive, yet weirdly quiet, years of Johnathan Williams. We saw the sun set on the 2017-18 season, and now we look towards the future.
There will be questions this offseason, because that is the level this program is at now. Take a pause and step back from that for a moment. Ten years ago, it was a long thought that any player would ever leave the program early. Now, there is legitimate NBA draft chatter for Hachimura and Tillie. The Zags will graduate Williams and Melson, but there might be even more holes after that. To be a great program in college basketball is both a blessing a curse.
This squad rolled into this season and set the college world on fire with the double-overtime loss against Florida—a game that held as one of the best in the season until the tournament rolled around. This squad, despite running a short as hell bench and some glaring roster restrictions, only lost five games on the season. This squad, a squad that was picked to be second in the conference, not only won the conference, but won the conference tournament in authoritative fashion.
It is never easy to witness a loss, and to think about all of the what ifs. Losing one of your starting five before tip off even occurs is a brutal hump for anyone to get over, and the Zags were exposed because of it. Credit to the Florida State Seminoles for the good win, but let’s give some due to our Gonzaga Bulldogs. This team, like they do every year, exemplified what it meant to be a Zag: slightly overachieving, slightly frustrating along the way, full of plenty of great wins, and full of plenty of great memories.
Thanks y’all. It has been a season, and can’t wait for what the future brings for this program.