Either Gonzaga or Xavier will make program history Saturday night.
Two nights later, in an 83-59 Elite Eight win over Xavier, it didn’t need to be the nation’s best defense. Tying the Mack vs. Miller series, after Sean Miller’s Arizona won round one in 2015. Long and athletic, Gonzaga will have sustained success on the boards against Xavier. It also marks the first time Xavier’s made it to the Elite Eight with Chris Mack.
Few and the Zags have won the West Coast Conference Tournament 16 times, been regulars in the NCAA Tournament since 1999, reached the Sweet 16 eight times.
That last point was the biggest takeaway from 11th-seeded Xavier’s 73-71 win over second-seeded Arizona at the SAP Center in San Jose on Thursday night. Now the NCAA’s winningest program will play another of basketball’s titans Sunday in top-seeded North Carolina with a trip to yet another Final Four on the line.
Though Perkins’ emergence was key, Johnathan Williams was the story as he continued his excellent tournament run. Matta took the team to its first Elite Eight by beating Texas in 2004, and Miller did the same when he led the Musketeers past West Virginia in 2008. Middle Tennessee was considered a Cinderella following the first round. Despite that size, he only had one block through the first three games of the tournament.
Kansas has been winning games by so much in all their tournament games, everyone should cower in fear, especially Oregon.
“Players would sign out sweats and jerseys at the beginning of every school year and turn them back in nine months later”, wrote Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg earlier this week. Less than two decades ago, Gonzaga’s trip to the Elite Eight was a pure Cinderella tale. Except this piece of nylon was more like a season extension.
Trevon Blueitt is the most important aspect of the Xavier offense, as the junior shooting guard has now dropped over 20 points in all three of X’s tournament games thus far, scoring 25 points in 36 minutes of play.
Jackson, has been very good thus far in the tournament, after being suspended for Kansas’ only game of the Big XII tournament. 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.
What fans of the Bulldogs have to be hoping for is that questions like “Where is Gonzaga college?”, “Has Gonzaga been to the Final Four?”, and “How tall is Karnowski from Gonzaga?” will get replaced with statements about how many points the team is favored by against Florida or SC.
“Now that we’ve delivered on it, I mean, it’s just a total, total feeling of elation and happiness for these guys”, Few said. Gonzaga is finally headed to the Final Four. West Virginia was in control for most of the game against the Irish following a scare against Bucknell where they squeaked out a 6-point win. Considering Xavier started the year in the preseason top ten. CT beat GU in that Elite Eight game 18 years ago, but the Jesuit school from Spokane had already begun to change.
The question that everyone kept asking all year was, “Is this Gonzaga team for real?” From an eye-test perspective they’re a better team than their record shows.