Two Division I men’s college basketball teams in the Northwest made history Saturday: The Oregon Ducks and the Gonzaga Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
The Zags beat Xavier 83-59 in San Jose, California. The Zags were up by 10 at the half and widened their lead to the end, hitting 50% of their three-pointers. The last three-pointer was a jump shot by freshman Rui Hachimura, who was sent in for the final minute of the game.
“I couldn’t be more happy for coach,” said Gonzaga junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss of Happy Valley, Oregon, and formerly of the University of Washington. “He deserves it.” Coach Mark Few, University of Oregon class of 1987, had been the winningest NCAA men’s basketball coach to have not brought his team to the Final Four until now.
In Spokane it was standing room only in the Hemmingson Center building, where the game was projected onto three screens. At the final buzzer it was phones up as students recorded their own faces for the moment that Gonzaga became the first West Coast Conference team to make it to the Final Four in 60 years.
The Oregon Ducks advance to the Final Four for the first time since their only NCAA championship in 1939. Oregon upset number-one seed Kansas 74-60 in Kansas City, Missouri. Jordan Bell, a junior forward, pulled off 13 rebounds and eight blocks.
“I think I did a heck of a job today,” said Bell in a live televised interview immediately after the win. “They sleep on us, man,” Bell said. He then pantomimed sleeping during his teammate’s interview, mocking those who doubted the Ducks.
Gonzaga and Oregon would face off for the NCAA championship if they were each to win in the Final Four Saturday April 1.
On Monday the Ducks women’s team must also beat the number-one seed, University of Connecticut, to advance to the Final Four.