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2017: The Zag’s Year

Allen Taylor, Sports Editor

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For the past 19 years, there has only been one team from a mid-major conference in the NCAA basketball tournament every year. That team is the Gonzaga Bulldogs, a small Jesuit University in Spokane, Washington.

For 18 of those 19 years, Mark Few has been the head coach, and has led the Zags to five appearances in the Sweet 16, and one Elite Eight. But, this year his team looked to have the talent equal to any other team in the entire country. Still, there was one distinct disadvantage for Gonzaga: their weak schedule due to them playing in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Gonzaga only plays one team in their conference season who can challenge them every time they meet, the St. Mary’s (CA) Gaels. But, this year Gonzaga crushed the Gaels by more than 20 points each time they met.

Gonzaga is led by transfer guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who transferred from the University of Washington after he injured himself during his sophomore season, and Premzek Karnowski, a seven foot tall 300 lb. Polish center who dominates the paint. These two propelled Gonzaga the entire year, leading them to a regular season record of 29-1.

After the regular season ended, Gonzaga got to beat up on their conference foes one last time in the WCC Tournament, where Gonzaga won each game by double-digits. Winning their conference tournament guaranteed the Zags a bid in the NCAA Tournament, and secured them a #1 seed.

On Selection Sunday, the Zags found out that they would be staying on the West Coast, and playing in the West Regional. They played their opening two games in Salt Lake City, beating both South Dakota State and Northwestern to book their ticket to San Jose, CA for the Sweet Sixteen. Gonzaga matched up against West Virginia in the Sweet 16, which was not favorable to the Zags, because of West Virginia’s non-stop press defense. Gonzaga had not seen a press of that intensity all year up to this point, and were clearly rattled. Even though they were trailing with under three minutes to go, Gonzaga prevailed victorious 61-58 thanks to a clutch three by senior Jordan Matthews.

Then, Gonzaga got lucky: #11 seed Xavier upset #2 Arizona in a battle for who got to face the Zags next. Instead of having to face off against the Pac-12 champions, Gonzaga got to play a small liberal arts school in Cincinnati. Gonzaga went wire to wire in their victory over Xavier, never letting Xavier lead in the game. With the win, Gonzaga secured a spot in the Final Four in Phoenix. Coincidentally, the Final four has not been held west of San Antonio since 1995, which is also the last time a school from the west coast won the NCAA Tournament (UCLA).

This Saturday, April 1 at 5:09 p.m. Gonzaga will take on South Carolina for the right to play for the National Championship. Again, Gonzaga got lucky with it’s matchup, as they are playing another team who has only qualified for this round via upsets. South Carolina is a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament, and as a university they are making their first Final Four appearance. The winner of the Gonzaga-South Carolina game plays against the winner of the North Carolina-Oregon game, which will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Gonzaga game. Both semifinal games will be televised nationally on TBS, and the NCAA National Championship will air on Monday April 3, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. on CBS.

All in all, the cards have aligned for Gonzaga to finally get over the hump, and win their first national championship in team history. It is the Zags year.  

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2017: The Zag’s Year