What had been a comfortable lead ceased to be comfortable for the Gonzaga Bulldogs late in their West Regional semifinal against the Florida State Seminoles on Thursday in Anaheim.
In a game Gonzaga had led by a double-figure margin, Florida State — showing the mettle of a team which probably deserved something more than a No. 4 seed at this tournament — furiously reduced its deficit to just four points, at 60-56, with a little over four minutes left.
Gonzaga didn’t lose anything of value relative to seeding or regional placement when it lost the WCC Tournament final to Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga still got the No. 1 seed in the West, which most bracketologists expected. Nevertheless, Florida State’s rally called to mind the Saint Mary’s surge Gonzaga couldn’t respond to.
Would the Zags be ready this time, in their first especially substantial test this NCAA Tournament?
Gonzaga allowed just two points to Florida State after the Seminoles created that 60-56 score. A 72-58 win moved Mark Few and his team to Saturday’s Elite Eight game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Few was cognizant of what his team had achieved:
“We hadn’t had much adversity in a long, long time. I think we just started leaking a little oil and were kinda getting away from what and why we were so good,” coach Mark Few said. “I’m happy we reacted the way we did because we’re back playing the way we played most of this year.”
This is the exquisite drama of Saturday’s regional final against Texas Tech: Gonzaga is playing really well, and Texas Tech might be playing even better. Texas Tech has dismantled all three of its opponents. Gonzaga has been the best No. 1 seed at this tournament. It didn’t trail a 16 seed at the half the way North Carolina and Virginia both did. It didn’t come within an eyelash of losing the way Duke did against UCF. Gonzaga has set a high standard… and yet Texas Tech has cruised through its three wins over the past week.
Is Gonzaga ready to put Texas Tech in its place? We will find out soon enough, but if Thursday’s win over Florida State is any indication, Gonzaga is ready to put forth the effort needed to meet the challenge.
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