Gonzaga punched its ticket to the Elite Eight for the second time in three years with a brutal victory over West Virginia. Now the Bulldogs have to avoid a letdown in NCAA Tournament against 11th-seeded Xavier.
Gonzaga eked out a brutal victory against West Virginia to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. If the Zags want to finally get that monkey off their backs and make the Final Four, they can’t overlook this previously unheralded, giant-slaying Xavier Musketeers team.
Xavier, led by coach Chris Mack and Sean O’Mara, knocked off two-seed Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen last night by suffocating one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation. Mack, a former colleague of Arizona coach Sean Miller, coached his squad up to make crucial plays offensively and defensively down the stretch to hold off the Wildcats.
With their first Elite Eight berth since 2008, the Musketeers became this year’s NCAA Tournament Cinderella story. We’ve seen this narrative before. An underrated or perhaps extremely hot-handed team upends a few higher seeds and finds itself on the brink of the Final Four.
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Those teams have certainly taken the next step before. But this is Gonzaga, the one-loss team from Spokane that, despite appearing in the NCAA Tournament every year, is still looking for its first-ever Final Four appearance.
The time to treat Xavier like an 11-seed is long past. Taking out Arizona means the Musketeers could beat anyone (maybe except Kansas).
Gonzaga has never looked more impressive this March Madness than it does now, after weathering the swarming storm of West Virginia. A cold-blooded three-pointer with less than a minute to go from Jordan Matthews got the Zags past the Mountaineers, whose best efforts at stopping Gonzaga in the clutch failed.
The key now to avoid another letdown, is for Gonzaga to clamp down on Xavier as if they were any other elite team. The Musketeers are one of the Elite Eight teams to advance this far. The Zags take on the Musketeers tomorrow at 3:09 on TBS.