Rui Hachimura moved to the United States previous year with a big dream to eventually become an National Basketball Association player. "Gonzaga's been a big-time program 20 years now". And that he would have a chance to appear in the Final Four?
The Zags took the pressure of history head on with a performance worthy of their No. 1 seed, rolling to a dominating 83-59 win over Xavier in the West Region final on Saturday that should silence those critics. "But unfortunately for us, he did a great job".
Kaela Davis scored 28 points on five 3-pointers, A'ja Wilson added 24 and the SC defense smothered the Bobcats (29-7), who missed their first 10 shots and took more than seven minutes to score.
Gonzaga has spent the last 19 years riding the high from climbing the midmajor mountain. He hit a long 3 a few steps away from the 3-point line at the top of the key with 41 seconds remaining. The players can taste it, and I feel like this might be the breakout game. In the late 1990s, some faculty at the small, financially strapped Jesuit college advocated a withdrawal from Division I sports altogether.
Before the 2017 NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs were 24-19 in 19 tournament appearances since 1985.
Though pleased with having made the Final Four, Mathews rejected the notion that finally reaching this peak puts Gonzaga on the map.
"When we got into the Elite Eight (round), I was just like, 'Okay, this is the Elite Eight, ' " he said. This marks the first time since 1998 (with Stanford and Utah) that the West has sent two teams to the Final Four in the same year.
The criticism dogged Gonzaga wherever it went, no matter how much it won.
The forward averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds playing 4.7 minutes per game this season.
The under is 6-2 in Gonzaga last 8 overall and the under is 6-2 in Gonzaga last 8 neutral site games while the under is 6-2 in Gonzaga last 8 NCAA Tournament games.
Center Przemek Karnowski and guards Josh Perkins and Silas Melson were the only regular contributors with previous Gonzaga experience - and Karnowski missed almost all of last season to injury.
"We actually had a conversation as to whether I should redshirt this year, but I didn't want to do that". I don't think my wife thinks I have one, or anybody in my family.
Gonzaga University head coach Mark Few weaved his way between the gathering crowd on the court and made sure to find the Musketeers guard, and embraced him. "They were a discipline type of team and we just didn't execute well enough". But this is his first time, he's not ready.
"And we would say Rui is going to be a centerpiece for our future".
Be proactive - Use the "Flag as Inappropriate" link at the upper right corner of each comment to let us know of abusive posts. This Xavier team is tough, gritty and has shown that they want to be in this tournament. Here are five big things we saw. It hasn't changed since he came to the USA and is one of the strengths that his teammates expect him to use.
Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Xavier Musketeers guard Malcolm Bernard (left) and guard Trevon Bluiett (5) celebrate after defeating the Arizona Wildcats during the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center.