29-1. What an incredible record to look at. It almost seems impossible, yet somehow, because of how it happened, the 2016/17 Gonzaga regular season has a tinge of disappointment. Not many fans will ever forget watching this team put together 29 consecutive wins, including dominant victories over St. Mary's, plus wins over Arizona, Iowa. St, Florida, Akron, Tennessee and a road win at BYU. Unfortunately, not many fans will ever forget Gonzaga jumping out to an 18-2 lead in the final game of the regular season, less than 40 minutes away from being undefeated heading to Las Vegas.
With all of that said, let's take a look at the BYU game, and see if anything jumps out that may be a cause for concern for March. Frankly, after being disappointed on Saturday, I find this loss to be more of an aberration, as opposed to a precursor of things to come in March. While Gonzaga ended up losing by eight, the reality is that this was a one possession game with less than a minute to go. And that final minute is as good of a place to start as anywhere:
Mark Few has had great success throughout his tenure as head coach playing two point guards. One of the reasons this can be so successful is it, in theory, should limit turnovers having two guys who can handle the ball in the backcourt. However, on Saturday night, the Zags committed 16 turnovers, and most frustratingly, many seemed to be unforced. With both Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins controlling the ball in crunch time, this is something that shouldn't happen down the stretch. It was so surprising seeing such a normally composed team become flustered and committing turnovers. My hope/expectation is that this is something this team will learn from and look to clean up before they play on either March 16th or 17th in the Round of 64.
I am rarely the kind of fan that freaks out about free throws. Maybe it's because Nigel never seems to miss one, but it never occurred to me that this might be a downfall for this team. However, when you look at the box score, the Zags left 13 points at the free throw line. You could feel the team tense up after a string of misses, and Zach Collins missed two big free throws late in the game that could have changed the momentum. It will be vital that guys like Johnathan Williams and Przemek Karnowski can be competent at the line in March, as this could be the difference in a close game.
Without a doubt, Zach Collins gets the most buzz in NBA circles, and that is absolutely deserved. However, there are flashes and moments every time I watch Killan Tillie that make me think he might be a 1st round pick as well. Prior to his the St. Mary's game and his injury, Tillie had been playing some of his best basketball of the year, scoring in double-figures in consecutive games. He is so disruptive defensively, and has shown a unique way to impact the game offensively with his length and skill. This is a guy Gonzaga needs back for the tournament, and we have heard that there is a chance he plays in Vegas, and should be ready for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Keep in mind, this team is undefeated when they are at full strength.
So what does the BYU loss mean? Honestly, if this team wins out, I expect it to still be the No. 1 seed out West and that the Pac-12 tournament champion will be the No. 2 seed out West. I'm not a believer that a loss was necessary for this team to achieve its goal of winning a National Championship, but I do think that this loss will allow the coaching staff and this team to clean up some of the turnovers and moments that have impacted them down the stretch of the season.