When I hatched this wonky plan of hitting play at the same time to give us something in place of this year’s March Madness, the overall idea was to have a specific game from each corresponding round of the NCAA Tournament in Gonzaga history.
Unfortunately, for the Zags, that meant showing the 2017 NCAA Tournament championship game loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels. A game that somehow has almost achieved a 2006 UCLA level of “don’t talk about it” mystique within the fandom.
So I kept it a question in my head, either showing this game against UNC, or showing the Maui Invitational win over Duke from a couple of years ago. The Maui Invitational game was as good as any championship game could be, but then ESPN took the wind out of my sails by re-broadcasting that game a couple of weeks ago.
One thing that I have noticed in watching these games is that the stress returns in interesting ways. Yesterday, when watching the Final Four win over South Carolina, I couldn’t understand how I managed to watch a game that close in person and somehow survive.
I was down in Phoenix for the 2017 Final Four and championship. My seats were pretty decent, on the first level, but that doesn’t really mean much. The first level of a basketball court placed in the middle of a football stadium means you are still a solid distance away from the court. Much of the viewing honestly happens on the jumbotron.
So with that in mind, that is why I am choosing to rewatch the championship game, and you can join me if you want. The 2017 Gonzaga Bulldogs team is the best one in school history. Part of acknowledging that history means to revisit the painful parts occasionally. But it is something I am looking forward to doing. Teams don’t just make it to the NCAA championship. A lot has to go right, including a fair amount of luck.
For Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament, it was the missed goaltending block by Zach Collins against Northwestern, the huge three by Jordan Mathews in the waning minutes against West Virginia, the two free throws by a freshman Killian Tillie against South Carolina, and many, many more.
Gonzaga’s run to the championship was thrilling. Excluding the first round game and the Elite Eight three-point onslaught against Xavier, Gonzaga won the second round game, Sweet 16, and Final Four by a combined 13 points.
North Carolina did the exact same thing. They needed an Oregon team to forget how to rebound. North Carolina won their Elite Eight and Final Four games by a combined three points.
For me, personally, I’m exciting to watch this game knowing what the outcome is. I’m excited to actually be able to witness basketball, appreciate Przemek Karnowski’s passing abilities, Nigel Williams-Goss’s all-around playmaking abilities, freshman Zach Collins rise on the biggest stage, and one of the best Gonzaga teams we’ve ever seen.
So join us tomorrow afternoon/early evening at 5:00 pm PT for tip-off.