Which Is the Best Doggone Zags Team Ever?Posted: Updated:
The year was 1961. Frank Burgess led the nation in scoring. In 26 games, he scored 842 points, averaging 32.4 a game. Burgess remains the Zags all-time leading scorer with 2,196 points.
Having won the WCC for the first time in 1994, the Zags looked even better in 1995. The team went 11-1 in pre-season play, only to go 0-6 in the WCC. But they bounced back by winning 7-of-8 down the stretch.
In the WCC Tournament, John Rillie went 27-42 from the field (64%), 20-28 from 3-pt. range (71.4%) and 22-24 from the free throw line (91.7%).
The Zags appeared in the Big Dance for the first time in 37 years of NCAA Division I membership. They drew the University of Maryland in the first round and lost 87-63.
1999 was the year in which many say Gonzaga established themselves as one of the premiere teams in the country. The Zags finished with a school-record 28-7 record with the likes of Riche Frahm, Mike Nilson, Casey Calvary, Mark Spink, Quenton Hall and Matt Santangelo.
It was in 1999 that Hall missed the shot against Florida that Calvary put back at the buzzer to advance to the Elite 8.
Gonzaga proved in 2000 that their appearance in the Elite 8 the year before was not a fluke. They faced one of the toughest schedules in the country, and first-year head coach Mark Few led the Zags to their second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.
2001 was Casey Calvary's year. Calvary was named the West Coast Player of the Year, and the Wooden All-American Player of the Year. He helped the Zags to a 26-7 record, winning more than 25 games for the third year in a row. It was during 2001 that Calvary broke the backboard in the game against New Mexico and sunk the game winning shot against Virginia.
The Zags made it to the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row, joining Duke and Michigan State as the only teams to have made three consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16 round of better.
The Zags got off to a slow start in the '01-'02 season, losing to No. 2 Illinois and then to Marquette in the Great Alaska Shootout.
The team clawed its way back to a No. 6 ranking and a fourth-straight WCC Championship with the leadership of Dan Dickau. Also on the team: Corey Violette, Blake Stepp, Zach Gourde, Winston Brooks and Ronny Turiaf.
Gonzaga became the first West Coast Conference Team to make five straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Led by Blake Stepp, the Zags went 24-9 on the year (12-2 WCC).
The Zags knocked off Cincinnati in the opening round of the Tournament, and then Arizona happened. In what many call Gonzaga's best effort ever, the Zags took Arizona to double overtime, but lost as two shots fell short at the buzzer.
2003 was the year Gonzaga played big names, such as Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Utah.
Gonzaga made their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004, going 28-3 on the year and 14-0 in WCC play.
The Zags were led once again by Blake Stepp, who earned a second Player of the Year award in the West Coast Conference. Stepp made Second Team All-American, and was joined by another Zag: Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf was an honorable mention All-American, giving Gonzaga two All-Americans for the first time in school history.
They made it to No. 2 in the polls (2nd USAToday/ESPN, 3rd AP), and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags lost in the second round to Nevada.
Gonzaga, led by Ronny Turiaf, demolished the competition in the WCC. They were rewarded with a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, although many believed they should have been handed a No. 1 or 2. After sneaking past Winthrop, the Zags collapsed against Texas Tech, losing 70-69.
The Zags were the center of attention throughout the '05-'06 season, with Adam Morrison stealing the headlines. Though they never played on the same court, Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick battled back and forth to become the Player of the Year. Redick won. Morrison was most remembered for his mustache (Can't Stop the 'Stache).
The Zags beat Xavier in the first round, Indiana by 10 in the second round, but fell 71-73 to UCLA in Oakland in the Sweet 16.