One’s going up, while the other’s going down. I’ll try not to be my usual pessimistic self and talk about how the Gonzaga hoops dynasty is ending before our eyes. For one thing, I just that very thing last weekend with the Patriots. Also, Yahoo’s got that very post on their front page. I will mention that Gonzaga has won the West Coast Conference every year since I first stepped foot on the USF campus. The last time they didn’t win the conference, I didn’t even know the WCC existed. From Casey Calvary to Blake Stepp, Dan Dickau to Adam Morrison, Ronny Turiaf to Jeremy Pargo, the Zags haven’t been anything less than the best for the last ten years. They even became the poster child for mid-major Cinderellas for the entire decade. They were essentially the Boise State of basketball. This year, they entered conference play with an impressive, though not breathtaking, 13-5 record. Gonzaga is know for its “play anyone, anywhere” mentality, so it wasn’t much cause for concern since their losses came against San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois, Washington State, and Notre Dame. However, this weekend was pretty much the beginning of the end for the Zags. They lost back to back games in the Bay Area at Santa Clara Thursday night, and then Saturday night on the Hilltop in San Francisco.
here’s a highlight reel that would have you believe USF won 96-3…..
Enough about Gonzaga, the real news here is the apparent resurgence of the University of San Francisco’s basketball program. With this weekend’s 96-91 overtime win over the Zags, USF has moved into sole possession of 2nd place in the WCC, donning a 4-1 record for the first time since 1982. You won’t see them in the Top 25 rankings anytime soon though. They were 6-9 at the conclusion of their nonconference schedule. Besides hanging tough against undefeated San Diego State in Las Vegas (62-56), the Dons had looked pretty listless in losses to San Jose State, Montana State, Loyola-Illinois, CSU Bakersfield, Louisville, Washington, IUPUI, and Colorado State. It did make for the 11th toughest schedule in the nation, and needless to say that ranking is going up now that WCC play is underway. With a win Thursday night in Los Angeles against Loyola Marymount, and a Gonzaga win over St. Mary’s in Spokane, the Dons could find themselves sitting in first place, tied with the rival Gaels from across the Bay. Regardless of whether or not that happens, I’m definitely not predicting a conference championship for USF here. What I’m saying is they look well on their way to challenging for it again. Not only is their only one senior on the roster – center Moustapha Diarra is solid, but hardly a key cog – arguably their three best players are two sophomores and a freshman.
It’s always fun to see a hated dynasty fall, but down the road, it’s also fun to see them come back. It was great watching the Lakers, Cowboys, or Yankees fall from the top spot, but sports are just that much more fun when teams like that are good. It’s clear most people have long-forgotten the 1950s when Bill Russell and KC Jones were leading USF to back to back NCAA Championships. College basketball sure would be a lot more fun for me if they were good again. Something tells me we’ve still got a St. Mary’s dynasty to endure first though.