They say you’re only as good as the teams you beat and in 2016-17 basketball season the mighty Cougars of BYU were one of the only teams to beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Pride of Spokane were bested by the North Carolina Tarheels in an intense game highlighted by the Bulldog’s physical play that they developed playing in the blue collar West Coast Conference. The Gonzaga players and coaches give most, if not all the credit, to their WCC counterparts who challenged them on a weekly basis, preparing them for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs were on pace for a perfect regular season until the fateful night of February 25th, an evening when they hoped to honor their seniors by finishing off a perfect regular season. TJ Haws and Eric Mika had other plans as they played spoiler, handing Gonzaga their first loss of the season.
The near national championship (and subsequent transitive national championship) would have been the first won by a team west of Kansas since Arizona in 1997. The alleged “conference of champions”, also known as the Pac-12, has failed to live up to their name going 0-3 when a team from their conference somehow happened to wander into a title game.
Back to BYU. The Cougars didn’t have their best season but when their only two seniors were lost to injury, making an NCAA Tournament run was essentially eliminated.