April 24, 2017

Gonzaga makes resounding statement in earning Final Four berth

27 March 2017, 12:49 | Candice Butler

Steve Spurrier


"It's been awhile since I was in class".

No. 1 seed Gonzaga beat No. 11 Xavier 83-59 in the West Region final, while No. 3 OR defeated No. 1 Kansas 74-60 in the Midwest Region final. With the Final Four starting Saturday, April 1, and leading up to the national championship on Monday, April 3, Phoenix is in for a wild ride, as your South Carolina Gamecocks will continue their unlikely march to a title.

Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game with Kansas (31-5), who won their first three tournament games by an average of 30 points.

"I thought about the journey, transferring and sitting out, ankle surgery last year, battling through everything", said Williams-Goss, the first four-year player at Findlay Prep. "We didn't shy away from setting that goal".

For Gonzaga, the 19th time was the charm. The Musketeers didn't have the regular season they wanted after being ranked top 10 in the preseason, but they did end up back in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Collins has been a road trip roommate of junior Nigel Williams-Goss, a Findlay Prep product whose leadership at point guard made all the difference in Gonzaga going to the Final Four with a 36-1 record.

The top-seeded Bulldogs have taken seven of their first eight shots from behind the 3-point line in the opening minutes.

One game, one more opportunity.

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There will be stories about big man Przemek Karnowski, about how the Bulldogs don't look like your standard mid-major due to their power conference transfers, and about how the weight of the world is off head coach Mark Few's shoulders.

"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. A cold-blooded three-pointer with less than a minute to go from Jordan Matthews got the Zags past the Mountaineers, whose best efforts at stopping Gonzaga in the clutch failed. "This was a culture win and a culture statement and couldn't be prouder". But as Xavier's J.P. Macura and Rashid Gaston swiped Gonzaga's Johnathan Williams, something unusual happened.

In the second half, for good measure, Gonzaga chose to re-assume its true defensive form, and promptly demoralized the Musketeers, who scored 20 points in the final 20 minutes. He expressed gratitude for his current players and those that came before them that set up a winning program from a smaller conference that could compete at the highest stage. They're really, really good.

Gonzaga played a dominating all-around game, playing crisply on offense, as it usually does, while adding the dose of stingy defense that had always been the program's Achilles' heel.

For the first time, Gonzaga is going to the Final Four. But Ken Pomeroy's most efficient team in the country is known first and foremost for its defense, which for the fourth time in five games held an opponent to one of that team's two worst offensive performances of the season. Also, expect to see at least 25 from Jackson who should have more space thanks to the great play of Mason recently.

As noted by USA Today, Trevon Bluiett was a key player for Xavier on Thursday, making clutch plays late in the game after scoring 18 of his 25 points in the first half.

"When we got into the Elite Eight (round), I was just like, 'Okay, this is the Elite Eight, ' " he said.

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