I could wax poetically about how we just manhandled Pepperdine for the 24th straight time, or how it has been 11 years since the Waves last gave Gonzaga any trouble. I could talk about how our young perimeter’s confidence grows by the game or how our once little used end of the bench continues to improve and provide solid minutes. 22-2 is good for the best record in the nation, we are currently ranked #6 and will probably be #3 or #4 in next week’s rankings. This should be plenty to rest our hat on, right? We SHOULD be happy, right? All’s well in Spokane right? I say WRONG.
I’m not satisfied; I do not see this as “Big” victory. When I watch these 30 point drubbings of mediocre opponents like Pepperdine or Loyola Marymount I see all the tiny imperfections that teams like Florida, Indiana, or Duke would feed off of. I see our March success thwarted in the sweet 16…again. This is a team that is as talented and deep as any in the nation. Listen to the countless pundits on ESPN, Fox, or CBS who sing praises of Gonzaga on the rooftops. They mention “Final Four” and “Zags” in the same breath more often than ever before. But I don’t see this as enough; I see it as dangerous to the psyche of this team.
It makes me cringe every time Stephen Bardo talks about how uber-talented Kelly Olynyk is, because while he has been absolutely dominant at times, there are so many others where he has disappeared against inferior competition. He plays 15 minutes in the first half last night without a foul, tentatively sitting inside watching the perimeter chuck threes barely trying to push around the small frontline of the Waves, then all of the sudden as if wrested from a deep slumber decides to exert his will and gets 2 bang-bang fouls. Why? He did not set the precedence of a physical smash mouth game with the refs; He did not earn his chips inside and create space by battling for position. He did not use his 7-0, 240 frame of superior athleticism to control the paint. I cringed. I could literally feel my face scrunch up in agony as I watched this obviously talented, but inexperienced player flail about like a fish out of water. Visions of March disappointment filled my mind.
There is so much I could discuss about this game. If I had the time, I could fill pages with anecdotal metaphors and age old sayings. Instead I will leave you with this: What happens in March will define this team, not the regular season accomplishments or legions of sportswriters who have jumped onto the Gonzaga bandwagon. If this team is hungry, they will rise above and choose their destiny. For me, I will hold my praise until the job is done.