The Santa Clara
April 6, 2017
Gonzaga’s heartbreaking loss to the University of North Carolina in the NCAA title game should still be celebrated in the West Coast Conference. It was a historic night for the WCC, marking the first time they sent a team to the national championship.
The Bulldogs have blazed a trail to become the first truly nationally relevant WCC school, paving the way for schools like Saint Mary’s, BYU and maybe even Santa Clara. Gonzaga proved that a smaller private institution off the beaten path can still build a dominant program capable of competing with the nation’s blue bloods of college basketball.
The Bulldogs first gained national attention when they made the Elite Eight in 1999 under Head Coach Dan Monson. But he left during the following offseason to take a job at Minnesota, then considered a more traditional basketball school.
Mark Few took over the next year and has maintained Gonzaga’s relevance ever since. This year, that relevance was justified, as the Bulldogs made their first ever run to the Final Four and eventual championship game. They suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of fellow one-seed North Carolina, going back and forth for most of the game before falling behind in the final minute.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest stories from this year’s March Madness was incompetent officiating. It was clearly apparent to even the casual observer that the referees disrupted the flow of the game on Monday night. The myriad of whistles never allowed either team to get in their groove and forced star players to sit on the bench because of foul trouble.
The two superbly talented teams shot a dismal 34 percent combined from the field. Both teams were in the bonus with 13 minutes to go in the second half and every single important big man was in foul trouble.
There were also several clear mistakes made by the referees in addition to the many whistles. Gonzaga center Zach Collins was called for an offensive foul where he barely touched the North Carolina defender and later fouled out as a result.
In another bizarre sequence, after what appeared to be a clean steal by Joel Berry, Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski inadvertently hit Berry in the face. Berry was whistled for a reach-in and Karnowski was given a flagrant foul after a lengthy monitor review, two calls that seemed blatantly incorrect.
Though there were many mistakes made, they did not seem to be drastically in favor of one team or the other. Still, Gonzaga must have visions about what could have been with better officiating.
Even though Gonzaga’s our rival, it would have been sweet to see them win it all.
Bringing the WCC their first national championship would have sent shockwaves through the NCAA. But reaching the title game still speaks volumes: the finest teams in college basketball no longer belong solely to the major conferences.
Bo Kendall is a sophomore communication major.