Two weeks ago the book on Gonzaga said the Bulldogs would have to win the West Coast Conference tournament just to get into the NCAA field.
Coach Mark Few’s team just didn’t have a resume that figured to earn an at-large bid considering the Bulldogs had beaten only one top-25 team all season heading into the postseason.
But Gonzaga elevated its play knowing it had to win and maybe feeling like it had something to prove, and the Bulldogs not only captured the WCC tournament, they’re still rolling in the NCAA bracket as a No. 11 seed on their way to the Sweet 16.
After an impressive win over Big East champion Seton Hall in the first round, Gonzaga absolutely dominated one of the Pac-12’s best with a 82-59 victory over Utah on Saturday night. Now, all that is standing in the way of a trip to the Elite Eight is a win next week over either No. 10 seed Syracuse or No. 15 seed Middle-Tennessee.
Gonzaga is getting it done on both ends of the court. In consecutive games, they have completely taken away the best offensive player for both Seton Hall and Utah. They held Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead to 10 points on 4-for-24 shooting and followed up by limiting one of the nation’s best big men, Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, to five points. Gonzaga also held both teams under 60 points.
So much for all the fuss about a potentially great individual matchup between Poeltl and Gonzaga big man Domantas Sabonis. Poeltl was sluggish throughout Saturday’s game and scored a season-low five points with only four rebounds.
Sabonis not only shut down Poeltl on the defensive end, he scored 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. Eric McClellan led Gonzaga with 22 points and Kyle Wiltjer added 17.
Gonzaga never has been to the Final Four. It played in the Elite Eight just last season, losing to eventual national champion Duke, and also in 1999. The Bulldogs have looked so strong in their first two games in the tournament, it’s going to take a special effort from either the Orange or the Blue Raiders to keep them from getting back to the Regional Finals this year.
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