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SATURDAY’S SNACKS: Villanova, Kansas and Baylor protect No. 1 seed with wins

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SATURDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

The NCAA tournament men’s basketball selection committee unveiled its top 16 seeds at this current point in the season. In the televised event, defending champion Villanova was given the current No. 1 overall seed while one notable major power conference didn’t have any top-16 seeds. We have more on this here.

Speaking of Villanova, they went on the road to play Xavier and won convincingly to help head coach Jay Wright win his 500th game. I have more on how the Wildcats have been really tough to stop offensively with the emergence of new scorer.

Another one of those No. 1 seeds is Gonzaga, the No. 1 team in the country that now looks like a sure-bet to get to undefeated during the regular season. If you didn’t already think this was a team that can win the national title, a 10-point win at Saint Mary’s should convince you.

The Big East had an interesting start to the afternoon that saw Georgetown beat Marquette and St. John’s upset Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles and Pirates are fighting for a spot in the Field of 68 while the Hoyas are trying to win enough to be in bubble consideration. More on this in Bubble Banter.

Freshman Josh Jackson had one of the best games of the year to help lead No. 3 Kansas to a tight road win over Texas Tech. I have more on why Jackson’s game is important to Kansas down the stretch.

No. 9 Arizona remained in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 on Saturday thanks to a tough home win over a better-than-you-realize Cal team. No. 5 Oregon was given a fight by USC on the road, but they shook off their collapse against UCLA on Thursday to beat the Trojans.

Luke Kennard had 25 points to help lead No. 18 Duke to a two-point win over Clemson. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on why the Blue Devils have a glaring issue that is starting to hurt them.

No. 14 Florida State went into South Bend and got worked over by Notre Dame, who seemed to take umbridge with the fact that they were dropped out of the top 25 this week.

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STARRED

J.J. Frazier, Georgia — Frazier finished with 29 points and six assists as Georgia went into Knoxville and knocked off a Tennessee team that is still fighting for their spot on the bubble.

Josh Jackson, Kansas — Frank Mason fouled out with a few minutes left and only played 26 minutes for Kansas on Saturday. So Jackson took over. The freshman played all 40 minutes and knocked in the game-winning free throw as he had a career-high 31 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Jackson was 12-for-15 from the field and very efficient. He willed the Jayhawks to victory.

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: The undersized four went up against one of the biggest front lines in the country for No. 14 Florida State and put up 33 points and 13 boards.

Johnathan Motley, Baylor — Keeping pace with the Jayhawks was Baylor as Motley also had himself a great afternoon. Motley finished with 25 points and seven rebounds as he was 12-for-15 from the field.

Tadric Jackson, Georgia Tech — Jackson scored 29 points for the Yellow Jackets in a come-from-behind win over Boston College that kept Josh Pastner’s club in the conversation for an NCAA tournament bid.

RELATED: Get caught up on all of today’s bubble action

REST OF THE TOP 25

  • It took a second-half rally but No. 4 Louisville held off Miami for an ACC home win. Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell both finished with 18 points. Point guard Quentin Snider finished with 13 points after missing six games with injury.
  • Convincing home win for No. 6 Baylor over TCU as the Bears attempt to keep pace with Kansas in the Big 12 race. The Bears had a really good game from Johnathan Motley in this one as he tallied 25 points.
  • In a game that was tied at halftime, No. 13 West Virginia outscored Kansas State by 19 in the second half to pull away with a Big 12 home win. Junior guard Jevon Carter had 19 points and nine rebounds.
  • There was a late rally that put a scare into No. 15 Kentucky but they ultimately pulled away for an SEC road win at Alabama. Malik Monk had a so-so shooting game but still managed 17 points.
  • A big second-half run gave No. 17 Florida a home SEC win over Texas A&M. Justin Leon paced the Gators with 18 points while John Egbunu had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
  • No. 21 Maryland held off Ohio State at home thanks to a terrific first half. The Terps had lost back-to-back games to fall out of the Big Ten title race.
  • Just hours after being listed as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament selection show preview, No. 22 Butler went out and lost at Providence.
  • Easy win for No. 23 Creighton as they rolled past DePaul for a Big East road win. The Bluejays had five players finish in double-figures, led by Toby Hegner’s 14 points.

NOTABLE

  • Minnesota did what they were supposed to do and beat Rutgers on the road. Sophomore Jordan Murphy led the Golden Gophers with 17 points while also unleashing a poster dunk.
  • Playing the role of potential spoiler was Pitt as they beat Syracuse at home. The Orange had won five straight games but the Panthers were led by 22 points from Cameron Johnson and 21 points from Michael Young.
  • Another embarrassing loss for N.C. State as they lost by 30 on the road at Wake Forest. Since winning at Duke, the Wolfpack have dropped five consecutive games — three by 20 or more points. Center John Collins continued his stellar stretch with 23 points and seven rebounds.
  • After earning an important road win at Northwestern earlier this week Illinois lost by double-digits at home to Penn State. The Illini have lost seven of nine games and head coach John Groce’s job could be in trouble. Payton Banks led the Nittany Lions with 24 points.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.

No. 3 Oregon heading to first Final Four in 78 years

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Oregon, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, made what looked to be a smooth path to Phoenix into a bumpy road. But after 78 years, the Ducks are going back to the Final Four, defeating No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, in Elite Eight on Friday night in Kansas City.

Everything went right for the Ducks in the first half. Josh Jackson was called for two fouls in the less than three minutes. The Jayhawks were limited in transition. Tyler Dorsey’s two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds gave them a double-digit lead at halftime. Oregon stretched it to as many as 18 in the second. Kansas couldn’t buy a basket from three (a far cry from the 3-point barrage it put on Purdue two nights earlier). When the Jayhawks drove to the basket, it was Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks) who either blocked or altered their shots.

However, the Ducks not only left the door open for the Jayhawks, they held it open. Kansas’ comeback attempt was a mix drink that was equal parts KU putting the clamps on defensively, Oregon playing a bit of hero ball, and the Ducks playing not to lose instead of to win. Up six with less than two minutes remaining, and Dorsey (27 points) buried a dagger 3-pointer that all but sealed the win — and a spot in next week’s Final Four — for the Ducks.

Oregon will play the winner of the South region, which will either be No. 1 North Carolina or No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday.

 

VIDEO: Jordan Bell’s spectacular chase-down block

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Oregon big man Jordan Bell has been the best player on the floor for the Ducks against Kansas, totally changing the way that Kansas wants to play with his defense.

As of the time of this posting, he had nine points, 11 boards, seven blocks and three assists, but his impact is not solely limited to the shots he swatted — every Kansas player that gets into the lane is very aware of the fact that Bell is lurking around the rim.

The thought of him changes shots.

The best block he’s had today came midway through the second half, when he snuffed out a dunk attempt from Landen Lucas with an impressive chase-down block:

No. 1 Gonzaga reaches first Final Four with win over No. 11 Xavier

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It took 18 long years, but after Gonzaga exploded onto the national scene with a Cinderella run that came one possession short of the Final Four in 1999, after the program followed up that run with back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 as a double-digit seed, after 19 straight trips to the NCAA tournament marred by moments of unfathomable heartbreak, the nation’s preeminent mid-major success story is finally headed to the Final Four.

What will the ‘Gonzaga is overrated’ crowd say now?

Armed with a roster that included a pair of blue-chip guards in their back court, a trio of high-major transfers and a McDonald’s All-American and future first round pick coming off the bench, Mark Few knocked off No. 11 seed Xavier, 83-59, on Saturday night to win the West Region and punch his first ticket to the final weekend of the college basketball season. Nigel Williams-Goss led the way with 23 points, eight boards and four assists and Johnathan Williams III, who was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player, added 19 points and nine boards as Gonzaga buried 12 threes and jumped out to an early lead they would never relinquish in a game that never felt like it was in doubt.

And with that, the monkey on Mark Few’s back is now gone.

“It means everything that we could deliver for guys like this,” Mark Few said after the game. Few had been the winningest NCAA tournament coach without a Final Four on his résumé. “They believed in us when they came. This is what we wanted to do and set out to do, and these guys were unbelievable. I could not be happier for all these guys, all our former players and all of Zag Nation.”

Whether or not that monkey was deserved is a fair question to ask. Gonzaga has had an incredible amount of success in the NCAA tournament. They’ve won at least one game in 16 of the 19 NCAA tournaments, including this year, that they’ve been a part of, including five of the six years in which they were a double-digit seed. In 13 of the previous 18 NCAA tournaments they played in, they advanced as far or further than their seed suggested they should have. Only five times did they lose to a team that was seeded lower than them. They’ve won 17 WCC regular season titles and 15 WCC tournament titles during that span.

What they’ve done, the consistency of the success that they’ve had, is not something done easily.

And it’s not something that should be overlooked when you consider where this program was in the early 90s. When Few was hired as an assistant coach in 1990, Gonzaga was thought of as the worst job in the WCC. The program, located in Spokane, Washington, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for recruiting, had never been to an NCAA tournament. The school didn’t even have a weight room for the team.

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“Players would sign out sweats and jerseys at the beginning of every school year and turn them back in nine months later,” wrote Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg earlier this week. “Sneakers were the only gear players received new, but obtaining a fresh pair typically required proving the old ones had a hole in the bottom.”

Within five years, Gonzaga was in the NCAA tournament. Within nine years, they had won the league and reached the Elite 8. Within 15 years, the school opened up a sparkling, $25-million, 6,000-seat arena, chartering flights for road games and recruiting trips.

Today, Gonzaga is arguably a top ten program in the sport

It is, quite literally, college basketball’s best rags-to-riches story.

They shouldn’t need this to justify their standing in the sport. Few shouldn’t need this to legitimize himself as something more than a coach feasting on a conference that can’t compete.

“My legacy is I guess built on a lot of other things,” Few said on Friday. “It’s built on the respect my players have for me and how they feel about they were treated and coached and developed and all that.”

“I’m schlepping along right now like vastly far behind my father who is 54 years a Presbyterian minister, man. He’s saved thousands of souls. He’s helped hundreds and thousands of people through all their tough times, you know. And that’s kind of the legacy that I’m looking at.”

But that’s not how our sport works.

March means everything.

If you can’t win on the biggest stage, if you don’t have that level of success when all eyes turn to college basketball, then everything you did during the previous four months is written off.

It’s not fair.

But that’s just how it is.

And now, nearly two decades removed from their introduction into the national consciousness, Gonzaga’s detractors no longer have that leg to stand on.