How BYU Beating Gonzaga Saved Gonzaga

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Had the Gonzaga Bulldogs won the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game over the North Carolina Tar Heels, they would have finished the season with a 38-1 record. This would have made them the first team since the 1973-1974 North Carolina State Wolfpack (30-1) to win the championship with a 1-loss record.

As a result, it would have made the Brigham Young (BYU) Cougars the first team since the 1973-1974 California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins to be the lone team to beat the eventual champion in their championship season.

This would have made BYU infamous, as they would have been the lone loss separating the Bulldogs from a perfect season, the first perfect season since the one completed by the 1975-1976 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0).  But Gonzaga didn’t win the national championship. And because of that, they can now actually thank BYU for saving them from even more pain and agony that they are currently experiencing.

Had it not been for BYU knocking Gonzaga’s record from a perfect 29-0 to an imperfect 29-1 with a 79-71 victory on Gonzaga’s home floor at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Washington, in the final game of the regular season on Saturday, February 25th, 2017, Gonzaga would have gone into the national championship game against the Tar Heels with an unbeaten 38-0 record. This means that last night’s loss to the Tar Heels would have been the one game separating them from the first perfect season in 41 years.

Just to put this in perspective, the Kentucky Wildcats were 38-0 when they lost in the 2015 Final Four to the Wisconsin Badgers. They were two wins away from the first perfect season since the 1975-1976 Hoosiers, and the pain and agony they suffered because of it was intense. Gonzaga’s would have been a whole lot worse.

BYU defeating Gonzaga in the final game of the regular season saved Gonzaga from even more disappointment than they are already feeling. Had Gonzaga been unbeaten before losing to North Carolina, they would have become the first team since the 1978-1979 Indiana State Sycamores to lose in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game with an undefeated record. Instead, thanks solely to BYU, only the 1960-1961 Ohio State Buckeyes can say they truly know Indiana State’s pain. Gonzaga, fortunately, cannot.

Yes, BYU defeated Gonzaga and prevented them from completing a perfect regular season, which was certainly disappointing for the Bulldogs. But the Cougars also saved the Bulldogs from even more agony than they are already feeling following the loss to North Carolina by doing so. If Gonzaga would have had a 38-1 record as the national runner-up as opposed to a 37-2 record, who knows what kind of pain they would be feeling right now. It would definitely feel worse that it does now, as hard as that may be to believe.

 

-Asher Fair

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