A ranking of the remaining 16 NCAA tournament teams

West Virginia 's Jevon Carter, left, and Tarik Phillip (12) stand together during practice Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in San Jose, Calif., in preparation for an NCAA Tournament college basketball regional semifinal game. Daxter Miles Jr. scored 18 while Ahmad and Elijah Macon each added 11.

The Bulldogs first had to slide past No. 16 South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 66-46.

Gonzaga is on the brink of the Final Four because its defense is for real.

Scoring didn't come almost as easily Thursday night for West Virginia against a rock-solid Zags defense with guards who close out quickly on shooters and multiple big men who can alter shots at the rim. This time, Gonzaga knew what to expect even more.

Late in the following possession, WVU's Dax Miles stepped back in the left corner and made a 3 after missing his first four attempts of the game. By the time it was over, the Mountaineers led by three points despite shooting below 30 percent from the field. It was the type of game whose box score suggested West Virginia should have won. Bam Adebayo, a graduate of High Point Christian, has a double-double in both tournament games. And in the Sweet 16, Gonzaga was matched up against No. 4 West Virginia.

The Bulldogs shot 40.9 percent (18 of 44) and 4 of 10 from 3-point range.

4 Fouls by Zags' Nigel Williams-Goss by the 8-minute mark in the second half.

Carter, who was 6 for 17 from the field, had 24 points in an 83-71 victory over Notre Dame to lead West Virginia into the Sweet 16.

Everything WVU threw up was challenged by a Gonzaga defense that is ranked as the nation's most efficient, and when it went to a zone for the final 7 or so minutes, its players in foul trouble, that really left WVU staggering around unable to do anything.

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Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams and Mathews each scored 13 points for Gonzaga (35-1), the No. 1 seed.

"To know you were so close and you gave everything you had and to come up sort, it hurts", West Virginia's Jevon Carter told reporters after the game.

Thirteen of the teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2017 come from what are considered "Power Five" conferences, and although Cinderella stories are popular when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, Huggins believes it's only going to become more hard for the "mid-majors" to compete at the highest level.

But as some pointed out, West Virginia made it pretty far and should be proud of its season.

"I think the gap's going to get bigger and bigger", he predicted.

The game went back and forth, with neither team grabbing more than a six-point lead. The ball took another bounce toward the baseline and an outstretched Adrian tossed it back in play. He also has a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio with 161 assists and 72 turnovers, which could be key to breaking the West Virginia press. Most teams start to go into a frenzy when they fall behind late, but not WVU.

All of that should have opened the door for WVU, a team averaging 82 points a game, a chance to run away, except they were having trouble hitting the rim, let alone making baskets.

Down the stretch, even as it looked like Gonzaga's ballhandlers were about to collapse in the face of WVU's press, the Zags' D clamped down and held the Mountaineers to just 6 points in the game's final 5 minutes and 56 seconds.

  • Michelle Webb