Rushed Reactions: #1 Gonzaga 77, #7 South Carolina 73Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2017
RTC is providing coverage from start to finish of the NCAA Tournament, including this weekend’s Final Four in Phoenix.
- Balance, Balance, Balance. There are many good reasons why Gonzaga is now sitting at 37-1 and heading to the National Championship game on Monday night, but one of the best is because of its offensive balance. Nigel Williams-Goss is the proverbial star, but he is truthfully only one of roughly six players who can take the reins for large swaths of a game. The stat sheet shows that four Zags finished tonight’s game in double figures — led by Williams-Goss’ 23 points, five rebounds and six assists — but he, Przemek Karnowski (13 points, five rebounds), Jordan Mathews (12 points on four three-pointers), Zach Collins (14 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks) and even Silas Melson (six points on two three-pointers) all had their moments carrying the team. For the game, the Zags consistently got to their spots against the nation’s second-best defense, shooting 48.3 percent from the field and nearly the same (47.4%) from beyond the arc. In the late second half, Gonzaga was definitely in “hold on” mode as South Carolina made its charge, but for the majority of the game, Mark Few’s preparation and coaching ensured that they would find excellent shots. Despite a gutty 16-0 run by the Gamecocks to create all kinds of pressure, they made just enough to advance.
- Get to Know Zach Collins, America. There’s a reason that the seven-footer has been on NBA Draft boards all season long despite the freshman’s limited usage (43% of available minutes). Seeing a significant opportunity against South Carolina’s undersized frontcourt, Mark Few directed his team to pound the ball inside early and often. With Collins and Przemek Karnowski repeatedly frustrating the Gamecocks’ interior defense with post moves and kickouts to open shooters, the Zags were able to build a large lead that turned out to be just enough to hold on. Collins has an advanced post game for his age and his six rejections shows that he’s certainly no slouch on the other end of the floor either. With a showing like this, expect the freshman to become the first one-and-done player in Gonzaga history.
- Frank Martin’s Postgame Press Conference. Normally we leave it to the Quotable section below to describe the key moments from the postgame press conference. Not tonight. During Frank Martin’s time on the dais, he was asked a question by a reporter about how impactful his team’s run had been to the youngsters watching back in the Palmetto State. Martin immediately went quiet, not saying a single word for a long 10 to 15 seconds. You could hear a pin drop in that room as the normally stoic head coach was clearly moved to tears. When he finally spoke, all eyes were on him. He spoke like a proud but hurt father speaking about his children — a poignant and revealing moment for a man who loves his players that way, but has had a reputation for fire and brimstone throughout his career.
Star of the Game. Zach Collins, Gonzaga. Collins made a comment earlier in the day that he wouldn’t want to be playing himself tonight, and he was certainly prescient in his observation. His 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks were felt all over the floor tonight, and it’s unlikely that Gonzaga would still be playing if not for his outstanding effort.
- Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, on his team’s last defensive play: “I stayed consistent w/ what we’ve done all yr. We love to make the ball-handler use as much time… and then foul.”
- Zach Collins, referring to a comment he made previously about not wanting to play himself tonight: “I really did say that.”
- Nigel Williams-Goss, on his roommate’s big game on the Final Four stage: “For [Collins] to come w/ a double-double, he walked the walk.”
- Few, referring to the reported handstand that he did in the Zags’ locker room after the game: “I got out of it with a healthy rotator cuff, and a healthy Achilles.”
- South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, on Gonzaga’s status as a program: “It’s not 1997 anymore. They were Cinderella. […] They’re as high major as high major can get.”
- South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, on how he was feeling today: “I was fine; I was fine for the whole game.”
- Martin, on the hard work that went into getting his team to the Final Four: “I’ve never tasted easy, so I don’t know what easy is all about.”
Sights and Sounds. Everyone has an opinion on whether the Final Four should be played in cavernous football stadiums, but the spectacle of it just before tip-off of the first Saturday game is always something to behold. All four fan bases are in their seats ready for the action, and the NCAA plays some dramatic orchestral music that gives the whole thing the proper feeling of pomp and circumstance. Given the location of this year’s event in Phoenix and the great distances that each of these fan bases had to travel to get here, the 2017 Final Four felt like the most evenly distributed — the most “neutral” — Final Four site in years.
What’s Next. Gonzaga advances to its first National Championship game in school history, while South Carolina returns to Columbia with stories to tell for years to come.