No. 1 Gonzaga advances in NCAA tournament
- Author: Douglas Reid Mar 27, 2017,
Mar 27, 2017, 0:50
"They've been pretty phenomenal all year", Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Zags beat Xavier for their first Final Four berth.
Kansas face an OR team that has shown few weaknesses this season and despite losing probably their best player, Chris Boucher, tore his ACL earlier this season, but Dillion Brooks has kept this team glued together and the Ducks are a Final Four looking team.
But the pressure is mounting and Few doesn't want to follow his friend and Arizona head coach Sean Miller to the depths of media and fandom hell.
"Our guys have nothing to hang their head about", coach Chris Mack said. The Musketeers also lost six straight before regrouping to reach the Big East Tournament championship game and now an Elite Eight after upsetting 2-seed Arizona on Thursday night.
Xavier's the highest remaining seed left in the NCAA Tournament.
"They're 36-1, going to a Final Four", a victorious Few said from the postgame dais here Saturday.
Gonzaga blew out Xavier on Saturday, and so the Bulldogs are finally - finally - moving on to the Final Four for the first time in school history. Williams missed a season under NCAA transfer rules and was selected most outstanding player of the West Regional after scoring 19 points against Xavier. However, most probably weren't shocked to see Middle Tennessee win in the first round.
Overall, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are a tough matchup for any team left in this tournament.
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The Zags are the sixth mid-major team to reach the third weekend of tournament play in the last 10 years. Bluiett's 25 points included 3-of-8 shooting from three-point range.
Tonight is possibly the biggest game in the history of Xavier basketball.
Xavier is doing something no one has done all season against Gonzaga: run an efficient offense. The Southeastern Conference hopes to fill the other two spots.
SUMNER'S ABSENCE: No one expected Xavier to be here, especially after losing point guard Edmund Sumner to a season-ending knee injury in January. They forced West Virginia to shoot 5-of-23 from behind the arc, and the Zags matched it by knocking down 4-of-10 three-point field goals on the other end of the floor. "They know what the Final Four is".
It is impossible to underplay the historic meaning of that accomplishment, even in the wake of this program's remarkable 18-year climb up the college basketball ladder. However, the Musketeers are one win away from a trip to the Final Four. "My coaches have told me to use this year as a preparation period, studying hard, learning English while I play basketball hard".
Xavier's case to be considered a Cinderella is really one that could be argued on paper only. "We're not really backing down from anyone".
And though this season the Bulldogs put together an impressive 32-1 record entering this tournament, earning the Bulldogs a No. 1 seed, they were considered by many a tier below the best schools thanks to a weak schedule.
Most players buy in, but it's what they do after the purchase that counts. Some who have dug themselves too deeply into an anti-Gonzaga hole to claw their way out now will point to the Zags playing an 11 seed in a regional final as justification for continued doubt.