Gonzaga makes resounding statement in earning Final Four berth

Posted March 27, 2017

Xavier goes home and so, too, does Bill Murray, a constant figure of amusement at some of the better sports stories of the last 12 months.

The Zags run up their record by beating up on teams in a weak conference, then always seemed to come up short as the calendar went deep into March.

Mark Few began getting the question as early as November - and again in December, January and February.

They'll need just a little more magic to be the first team into the Final Four.

Wide awake, sir. All of college basketball is awake to the West Coast now, after the Ducks dumped top-seeded Kansas and No. 1 seed Gonzaga routed Xavier to send two teams from the Pacific time zone to the national semifinals for the first time in NCAA Tournament history.

"He deserves it." Coach Mark Few, University of OR class of 1987, had been the winningest NCAA men's basketball coach to have not brought his team to the Final Four until now.

"It's been a long, hard journey to get this program here", Few said.

The Final Four was the only missing piece to their resume.

The Zags resorted back to the Zags of old as they took control of the game with stifling defense and extra-efficient offense.

Gonzaga made basketball look simple for 40 minutes, which it tends to do when shots are falling.

Williams-Goss scored 23 points and forward Johnathan Williams had 19 points and won the tournament MVP award. But this is Gonzaga, the one-loss team from Spokane that, despite appearing in the NCAA Tournament every year, is still looking for its first-ever Final Four appearance.

In the Final Four, Bell will bring an energy and enthusiasm that his opponents will have to match. "It's not an end-all, be-all", Williams said.

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Gonzaga eked out a brutal victory against West Virginia to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. They have 28 NCAA tournament wins, one more than Xavier.

"Sometimes, " Mack said, "you just lose to a better team". And each year we got better and better, and then we got really good.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

The Musketeers were the lone double-digit seed left in the bracket after knocking off Maryland and Florida State in the first two rounds, setting up their second Sweet 16 game against Arizona in three years. Considering Xavier started the year in the preseason top ten. When Brooks hit a 3-pointer with 14:38 left in the half, the Ducks led 55-37. Xavier's been rolling on big shots, but those shots aren't going to come almost as easy against Gonzaga.

Bluiett scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half to help Xavier keep up with the athletic Arizona Wildcats.

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

Gonzaga can now symbolically burn all the postseason disappointments of prior years, even though it was never fair to have them obscure the monumental achievements of the program.

It was a thrilling day one in the Sweet 16 with Xavier beating 2 seed Arizona, Gonzaga barely hanging on to beat West (press) Virginia to advance, Kansas asserted their dominance on the field with a thrashing of Purdue, and OR gutted out a hard fought win over a very good MI team.

For the first time, Gonzaga is going to the Final Four.

The second half started like the first half ended, with OR on a spurt.

RaShid Gaston was credited with the basket after the ball bounced off the floor and the backboard into the basket.

Just remember, don't sleep on Blueitt, J.P. Macura, and Quentin Goodin and the last remaining Cinderella team remaining in this field.