There's not much that can be said that hasn't alrady been said about Gonzaga's 1st-round loss to Wyoming in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
It was a shocking, unexpected loss.
But perhaps that speaks to how good and special this team was. Never did the 2001-2002 Zags take the court without the expectation of a win.
As the season progressed, wins came fast and furious, with winning streaks of 13 and 14 games in the months of December, January, February and March. In fact, Gonzaga would lose just one game in December, January and February, and then would avenge that single loss with two payback wins.
With a school-record 29-3 in the bank, the highest national ranking in school history, an RPI of 21 and a Sagarin of 10, the Zags were given a 6 seed by the NCAA Selection Committee and were sent far south to Mountain West Conference city Albuquerque, New Mexico, to play Mountain West Conference Champions Wyoming.
In the meantime, Dan Dickau continued to lengthen the list of Gonzaga's "firsts" by being voted to the AP All-American 1st team. No other Zag had accomplished that. (Congratulations, Dan!)
Shooting 26% from the field, the Zags would hang in there and hang in there, even leading by four at the half and as many as seven in the 2nd half.
Wooden Award Finalist Dickau could not connect consistantly, despite open looks that had been money in the 32 previous games. Blake Stepp could not guide the ball through the basket. Steady Zach Gourde and Cory Violette had strange games, unable to finish more often than not. Anthony Reason, Alex Hernandez, Ronny Turiaf, all were "off." Only Kyle Bankhead, who hit two out of three treys, could be considered "on."
Wyoming would upset Gonzaga by seven points that night in The Pit to end GU's yearly success in postseason--two Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight.
In disbelief, Gonzaga's season would end. Such are the expectations of this team and this program.
It would be the "Upset of the Day," despite other upsets in the tournament by lower seeds than Wyoming over higher seeds than Gonzaga.
For a short while, many huge achievements by the 2001-2002 Zags were forgotten. Wins over ranked teams at the time, maintaining an undefeated streak in The Kennel, more double-double efforts by Zags than ever before, and countless come-from-behind victories won by sheer grit and will.
Just to be WCC Champions for the 4th straight year, another first for any WCC team, was a great feat. And to earn a spot in postseason play for the 5th consecutive year was something most teams would envy.
The thrills of this season will be recalled and talked about for years to come. Only 4 times did Gonzaga feel the pains of defeat over nearly 5 months.
The entire Gonzaga cummunity would lose Father Tony, yet another emotional twist to this season's ending. The empty chair at the end of the bench with flowers on it is forever etched in our memories.
What Zags Hoops and all Gonzaga fans, alums, students, etc., will miss the most are the seniors. While it is sad at this writing to know that Dan, Anthony and Alex will never suit up again in Gonzaga uniforms, their two years as Zags will go down as two years that impacted GU's program in an incomparable way. Soon, this will be what fans remember most.
Zags Hoops wants to thank Dan Dickau (#21), the man who emulates his childhood hero John Stockton with the look and flair of Pistol Pete Maravich, Alex Hernandez (#15), the man who did all the dirty work and played like he was 6'9" instead of 6'3", and Anthony Reason (#25), the man who provided the fire and energy that fueled this team to play harder and better.
Thank you, men, for transfering to Gonzaga. Thank you for memories of game-winning shots, of feature articles in the biggest sports magazines, of bringing your families to Gonzaga and sharing your beautiful baby girl, your loving mothers, your proud fathers and special friends.
We will never forget you.
Greatest of luck and best wishes in your futures.
To the talented Zags who will return next year, times are good and the future shines bright.
"To be continued..."