March Madness 2017: Oregon, Gonzaga make history
The Oregon Ducks and Gonzaga Bulldogs are not known for success come March. College basketball tends to reward its blue bloods this time of year, programs like the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels, the UCLA Bruins and the Kentucky Wildcats.
While either Kentucky or North Carolina will be in the Final Four after their tilt on Sunday night, the rest have been sent home. In their stead, its Oregon and Gonzaga who continue dancing well into the evening.
After so many heartbreaks it has become unimportant to count, Mark Few and his Bulldogs have finally reached the Final Four. Few has never missed the NCAA Tournament as head coach, but this is his first time getting into the final weekend of March Madness. After surviving a tough game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Thursday, Gonzaga was able to easily handle the Cinderella story of the Xavier Musketeers.
After beating the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats, it appeared the clock struck midnight on Xavier. Gonzaga came out hot from the outside and put the No. 11 seed in an early hole from which it never recovered. In a battle between two schools trying to reach the Final Four after years of coming close, it was Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss who led the way, scoring a game-high 23 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
In the other regional final from Saturday night, it was the Ducks shocking the top-seeded and heavily-favored Kansas Jayhawks … in Kansas City, no less. Oregon was on fire from the jump, scoring 44 points in the first half to take an 11-point lead at the break.
In the second half, Kansas struggled to get on track after averaging 96 points in the first three games of the tourney. The Jayhawks had stars in Frank Mason Jr. and Josh Jackson, but they couldn’t compete with the three-headed monster of Jordan Bells, Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey. Bell notched a double-double with a dominant interior game, racking up 11 points and 13 rebounds to go with eight blocks. Brooks scored 17 points and pulled down five boards, while Dorsey led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
Oregon might be the toughest team left, even without Chris Boucher who sustained a torn ACL before the tournament. The absence was supposed to scuttle this team, but it has only served as motivation. Oregon has the defensive presence of Bell in the paint and Dorsey shooting from all spots on the court, providing a story that fees very similar to the runs of men like Danny Manning and Kemba Walker in the past.
Two more games are to be played Sunday, and then the Final Four is set. Regardless of the winners, it’s going to be phenomenal.