Gonzaga among NCAA Tournament’s greatest teams? Maybe, but first they have a party to attend

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INDIANAPOLIS — The ceremonial removing of the starters was proceeded by a 3-pointer from Jalen Suggs that did, no less than, set up the profitable margin at a degree commensurate with the 39 earlier minutes of basketball between Gonzaga and Southern California. And because the reserves performed out the ultimate 51 seconds, there have been hugs in entrance of the bench among the Gonzaga gamers and coaches. They had a clear understanding of what this meant, regardless that a lot in regards to the 2021 NCAA Tournament lacks the everyday definition of March Madness.

Following their 85-66 victory, they reduce down the nets on a almost vacant court docket, occupied solely by a few representatives from the NCAA and members of the Gonzaga touring party. There shall be no journey house to Spokane to have a good time this Final Four look with hundreds of scholars and neighborhood followers. It’ll be again to the lodge, similar to after the three prior event video games. But this shall be totally different.

“Everybody wants to keep moving this thing forward, but that’s just not how we roll,” coach Mark Few informed reporters after the sport. “This is a heck of an accomplishment, and we’re going to celebrate that. That doesn’t lessen our desire to win the next game, but these are special times.

“This is something that needs to be celebrated, and we need to take the time to enjoy the heck out of it. I think you’re missing the point in life if you just go to the endgame.”

MORE MARCH MADNESS: Live scores | Updated bracketTV schedule

The finish of the sport between the Zags and Trojans got here early. Really early. Like, shortly after tipoff.

USC was behind by 17 factors earlier than 10 minutes of the West Region ultimate had handed. The Trojans dedicated 4 turnovers in that interval and missed 9 of their first 13 photographs. By halftime, it was 49-30 in favor of Gonzaga. The first three USC event opponents averaged 58 factors for his or her total video games.

“I think our players made some mistakes,” stated USC coach Andy Enfield to reporters postgame. “They’re college basketball players and that’s what happens sometimes. They got sped up a little bit. They were very prepared to play. They knew Gonzaga, what they were trying to do. It wasn’t a lack of preparation on our players’ part. They just didn’t play well at the beginning of the game.”

Gonzaga joined 2015 Kentucky, 1991 UNLV and 1979 Indiana State as the one groups to attain the Final Four with excellent data for the reason that 1976 Indiana Hoosiers made it right through the championship with a excellent report.

“It’s great. It’s hard not to think about it,” freshman All-American Jalen Suggs informed reporters. “We try our best to keep our minds focused on the task at hand. It’s a great accomplishment to be mentioned with those teams, because they’re amazing. We just want to come in every day and play to the Gonzaga standard, and this is the result. We’re not chasing anybody or anything.”

The previous “what if Gonzaga played in a major conference” narrative is being destroyed, recreation after recreation, earlier than our very eyes. If the Zags performed in a main convention, they’d merely win extra video games in opposition to major-conference opponents.

They have performed eight groups this 12 months that had been among the easiest in almost all one of the best leagues: Iowa from the Big Ten, ACC champion Virginia, USC from the Pac-12, Creighton from the Big East and Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia from the Big 12. The solely league to escape Gonzaga’s wrath: the SEC. Lucky for them.

The Zags didn’t simply go 8-0 in these video games. They destroyed almost each workforce on the listing. Only WVU got here inside double digits, shedding by 5. On common, these groups fell by a margin of 16 factors.

Enfield was requested what it might take for one of many different three Final Four groups to cease Gonzaga from ending the season 32-0.

“We didn’t do a very good job, so I’m probably the wrong person to ask,” Enfield stated with a chuckle. “They have skill at every position. They’re hard to guard because a lot of teams you can sag off one or players at particular times, but Gonzaga is very skilled and very fast. Their speed is very hard.”

There is an comprehensible rush to elevate this Gonzaga workforce into a historic context, notably after a efficiency similar to this. Are they within the dialog with Carolina 2009, Kentucky 1996, Duke 1992, Georgetown 1984 or dare we are saying Indiana 1976?

No. Not at present. No one understands higher than the Bulldogs that every thing they do wanting profitable the title is wanting profitable the title.

If they had been to lose on Saturday or subsequent Monday evening, the dialog shall be fully totally different. It will contain the place the Zags stand among one of the best groups that failed to win all of it: Kentucky 2015, Memphis 2008, Illinois 2005, UNLV 1991. That just isn’t a listing a workforce with Gonzaga’s expertise and accomplishment desires to be wherever close to.

And so they will proceed to give attention to what’s in entrance of them. They won’t have the customary week to put together for the nationwide semifinals, but they additionally do not want to journey from a West Region website to house after which to Indianapolis. They are right here. They know their environment. After taking part in their early event rounds at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Zags even performed within the stadium the place the Final Four shall be staged.

MORE: Where is Gonzaga located and more fun FAQs 

If you need to evaluate them to one of the best groups not to win it, nonetheless, take into account that in 2015 Kentucky gained its regional ultimate over Notre Dame by a basket with Willie Cauley-Stein blocking the Irish try at a game-winning 3-pointer. And UNLV in 1991 beat Seton Hall solely by 12, after main by simply three at halftime.

Gonzaga has dominated on this event in a method these two didn’t and they appear unaffected by the presumed stress to end an undefeated season. With few followers within the stands from both facet, with no in-person interplay in any respect with fellow college students, or boosters or even their very own households, questions on perfection are restricted to brief Zoom calls with reporters and possibly a few calls or texts.

Although each the Zags and Trojans are from universities within the Pacific time zone, their recreation was performed within the earlier time slot of Tuesday’s doubleheader, tipping off at 4:15 PT. Few was requested if he was involved whether or not that meant the workforce’s followers wouldn’t be in a place to watch their workforce reached the second Final Four in program historical past.

“Trust me, our fans are not at work. If you think they’re working, you don’t know the Zag fans,” he stated. “We don’t lack for any more viewership or fans. They have their priorities in line. They stop work early, stop whatever they’re doing and cheer for the Zags.”

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