Gonzaga and Oregon beat Xavier and Kansas, respectively, to advance to the Final Four and it was a monumental moment for both programs.
The Bulldogs have garnered a reputation of being a good team who never reached greatness by losing too early in the tournament. This year, Mark Few was given the first seed in the West region and, as history has shown, first overall seeds don’t fare too well as the tournament gets deeper. Getting to Phoenix meant beating (16) South Dakota State, (8) Northwestern, (4) West Virginia and (11) Xavier, whose Cinderella run hit midnight on Saturday.
It’s the first Final Four in the program’s history despite going dancing every season since 1999. Xavier had almost no chance, and a barrage of threes created a 24-point margin of defense for Chris Mack‘s group. Nigel Williams-Goss was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, and junior Johnathan Williams was lights-out from behind the arc and buried 4-of-7 threes en route to 18 points.
Saturday’s second game was a huge upset. Oregon put together a great year, and so did Kansas, but if you asked enough people, you’d get a majority say that the Jayhawks were a better team. They were unstoppable offensively all throughout the tournament, and Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, and Devonte’ Graham had yet to be held in check. The Ducks, on the other hand, had guys who were just as great. Tyler Dorsey, er, “Mr. March,” had scoring outputs of 24, 27 and 20 through the Ducks’ first three games, and he then poured in 27 as Oregon dismantled Kansas 74-60.
Dillon Brooks was huge as well despite not being at the top of his game during the Ducks’ run. He finished with 17 points in 37 minutes and bounced back nicely from the game against Michigan.
The difference, however, was Jordan Bell. Kansas’ offense was held in check, and the Jayhawks shot just 35 percent from the field in their loss. A big part of it was Bell, whose ability to protect the rim was extra-prevalent on Saturday. The junior from Long Beach recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 13 rebounds and 11 points, but he finished just two blocks away from a triple-double. His eight rejections tied him with Brice Johnson and D.J. Stephens for the second-most in March Madness history. He was able to be a force inside without fouling and picked up just one personal for the game.
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It’s the first time since 1939 that the Ducks — who were in the Pacific Coast Conference at the time — have made it to the Final Four. Coach Howard Hobson led them to a 29-5 record that year, and they went on to win the National Title. Now, Oregon awaits the winner of UNC-Kentucky while Gonzaga plays either South Carolina or Florida for a chance to go to the title game.
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