Gonzaga, Xavier on the cusp of first Final Four
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — No. 11 Xavier (24-13) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (35-1)
Fourth Round, West Region; San Jose, California, 6:09 p.m. EDT.
BOTTOM LINE: Two teams once considered mid-majors are on the cusp of their first Final Four. Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament 19 straight seasons, the fourth-longest streak in the nation. The Zags have been to the Elite Eight twice before and entes Saturday’s game with 27 NCAA Tournament wins. The Musketeers also are making their third Elite Eight appearance and match Gonzaga in all-time wins. Xavier has already knocked off No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 2 Arizona in this year’s bracket.
BATTLING BLUIETT: Trevon Bluiett has played a big role in Xavier’s run since point guard Edmond Sumner was lost for the season with a torn left ACL. The junior guard scored 18 first-half points in the Sweet 16 against Arizona, one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams, and finished with 25 in the 73-71 victory.
MORE FROM WILLIAMS-GOSS: Gonzaga won its Sweet 16 games over West Virginia despite an off night by point guard Nigel Williams-Goss. The WCC player of the year had several shots blocked and finished with 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting with five turnovers. The Zags will need him to play well to hold off Xavier’s upset bid.
THE BIG GUY: Xavier’s biggest challenge, literally, is stopping Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound center. Xavier’s biggest player is 6-10 forward Sean O’Mara, who gives up more than 50 pounds to Karnowski.
DID YOU KNOW? Gonzaga and Xavier are both Jesuit schools that have met four times previously. The Zags have won three straight, including a 72-65 victory in 2011. Xavier won the lone NCAA Tournament meeting, beating Gonzaga 79-75 in the first round in 2006.