Sometimes you just gotta play the hand you're dealt, win, lose, or draw — and it doesn’t always feel good to be the winner.
This may not be the most popular opinion in the Inland Northwest, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs are lucky to be playing in the Sweet 16.
Despite many other people’s opinions, including many other local writers, the Zags were gifted something that many teams don’t always get.
A stoppage of play and the ability to see the ball go through the hoop after many minutes of not seeing it happen.
They were not gifted a win, although circumstances may point to that being exactly what happened.
What they were given was the equivalent of a boxer being awarded extra points because of the beating they were taking.
After being up by as many as 22 points they managed to blow their lead and allow a scrappy, undersized Northwestern team to somehow claw their way within five points with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
And then things got weird.
With the score sitting at 63-58, Northwestern’s point guard drove deep into the paint and pulled all of the Bulldog defenders down with him before dumping the ball of to a trailing teammate who went up to drop the ball in for an easy two points, but the Zag defenders reacted quicker than expected and met the Northwestern player at the rim for a big time block.
Except that it wasn’t a block.
Gonzaga’s reserve big man Zach Collins (a potential first-round NBA draft pick) rose up to make another big time block, but he was too far under the hoop and instead of blocking Northwestern’s shot, he committed an obvious goaltending violation.
Following Gonzaga recovering the miss and pushing the ball down the court, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins was going nuts and was given a technical for walking about three steps onto the court to chat with the (now) trailing official.
The official wanted no part of Collins’
frustration (admittedly Collins had been in the officials’ ears all game long) and decided to give him a technical foul.
So let’s stop right there.
With the score standing at 63-58, Northwestern was in the midst of a 20-5 run and, realistically, have every ounce of momentum in the building in their favor.
Gonzaga’s previous possessions had gone, (2) missed free throws, turnover, missed shot, turnover, missed shot, missed shot.
Now, play has been stopped, earned points were not awarded, and now Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga’s 90+ percent free throw shooter, is getting two freebies (which he drills) and Gonzaga will retain possession.
Even if they blew the goaltending call, which you know that at least two of the three officials did, they should have just told Collins to get off the court and sit down.
Instead a true 3-point game could have stayed a 5-point game (where everyone got away with something) and not have turned into a 7-point game and the reality check that pushed the Bulldogs to a win.
My issue here is not that the Zags won, I wanted them to win (in the case of my failing brackets, I needed them to win).
And yes, I know, five minutes in a college game is an eternity, but sometimes you can slap someone back into reality with just enough time left for them to pull their heads out and win a ballgame.
Gonzaga didn’t deserve to get that slap.
When a 1-seeded team needs any help, wanted or unwanted, from something not wearing a jersey it becomes a blemish.
When you blow a big lead like the one they had, which was like watching the 2006 collapse again, you start to wonder who is going to be the crying Adam Morrison this time.
For anyone to say that the Bulldogs could have still won, they are absolutely right, they could have, but I don’t think they were going to.
Prior to those technical free throws, Northwestern had beaten them 40-25 in the second half, before a reawakened Gonzaga scored 16 points in the final 4 minutes and 54 seconds.
Locally, people cheered and acted like Gonzaga was some sort of conquering hero.
But as a basketball person, not just a joy-blinded fan, you have sit and wonder: should the Zags get over the hump, get to the Final Four, and win the National Championship will this throw away, second round game be hung over their head?
You bet it will.
Sports fans, sports analysts, everyone remembers your close calls, the mistakes (ask Chris Webber), the NCAA even came out after the game and said there was a big mistake made by the officials.
The only way Gonzaga gets this stigma lessened is if they thoroughly dominate the rest of this tournament.
They need to show that they weren’t bailed out and I hope they do.
It would be nice to have a winner here (semi) locally that isn’t the Seahawks.
But if they don’t be ready, because the critics can be ruthless.