HOW THEY GOT HERE
The rap on Gonzaga was that after cruising through its conference season relatively unchallenged, how would the Zags respond the first time things got tight in the tournament? That answer came in the regional final when they had to hold off a Northwestern rally for a 79-73 victory. That came after 66-46 win over South Dakota State in the first round. They may be known as “Press” Virginia, but the Mountaineers also showed they can score in winning their first two games, 86-80 over Bucknell and 83-71 against Notre Dame.
Gonzaga is making its third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 as it seeks its first Final Four berth in 20 tournament appearances. The Zags have made it to the Elite Eight twice, in 1999 and 2015. West Virginia has made the Sweet 16 on 10 occasions, most recently in 2015. The Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four in 2010 and lost the 1959 championship game 71-70 to California despite 28 points and 11 rebounds by the legendary Jerry West.
PLAYER TO WATCH
West Virginia junior guard Jevon Carter sets the tone on both ends of the court. He leads the Mountaineers in scoring (13.3) and assists (3.8) and at 6-foot-2 is second in rebounding (4.9). He also is tops in steals (2.62) to rank seventh nationally in that category.
Junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss has been Gonzaga’s top offensive threat, leading the team with an average of 16.7 points while shooting 50.4 percent from the field. He’s also deadly at the free throw line, shooting 90.3 percent at the line to provide a safety net with the ball in his hands down the stretch. But in the first two tournament games he’s been off-target, hitting just 31.3 percent (10-of-32).
“Press Virginia” lives up to its nickname, leading the nation in opponent’s turnovers at 20.1 per game. Gonzaga takes good care of the ball, averaging 11.3 turnovers despite having a high-possession offense.