Name an achievement at Gonzaga and Mark Few has done it: win conference titles, go to the NCAA Tournament, win postseason games, produced All-Americans and a player of the year, send players to the NBA Draft.
There is one notable exception: Reaching the Final Four. Few has won 438 career games at Gonzaga, and until Friday, none of those came in the Sweet 16.
Now, to reach the first Final Four in school history, Gonzaga and Few will have to through a coach who has achieved pretty much everything one can in the sport — four national titles, 11 Final Fours, two Olympic gold medals and 1,015 career wins.
Sunday’s South regional final in some ways returns Gonzaga to its roots as a small-school underdog. The Bulldogs will face Duke, and although the two teams are the top two seeds in the region, the Blue Devils are one of the few teams perceived to be a threat to Kentucky’s dominance this season.
Little Gonzaga? Few has built this program into a powerhouse, but for the biggest game in school history, the Zags are an underdog again.
No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Duke
Region: South (Houston)
Time: Sunday, 5:05 p.m. ET
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill
Line: Duke by 2 1/2
Matchup to Watch: Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer vs. Duke’s Justise Winslow
Winslow has become Duke’s most valuable player in the NCAA Tournament, setting up a marquee matchup with the Zags’ best scorer. Winslow had five blocks and five steals in the last two games, and he was the only player on either team to hit shots from long range in the Sweet 16 against Utah. This will be a fascinating matchup on both ends of the court.
Tournament Surprise: Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski
Karnowski has proven capable of going off for 20 points at times this season, but he’s rarely the first name anyone mentions with this Gonzaga team. Karnowski rectified that with 18 points (and one highlight reel assist) against UCLA. If shots aren’t falling for Gonzaga in Houston, the Bulldogs will need his production down low again.
Gonzaga will win if...
The Bulldogs can do what Utah did to Jahlil Okafor. Duke’s standout center scored only six points on six shots against Utah. The Utes double teamed Okafor like every other team but made sure Okafor couldn’t find a shot. Gonzaga will be hard-pressed to follow that blueprint, but the Zags aren’t quite the defensive team Utah is.
Duke will win if...
The Blue Devils can guard Gonzaga. Duke’s NCAA Tournament draw has been Robert Morris, San Diego State and Utah. The Utes were the only top-100 KenPom offensive team among those three, ranking 21st in the country in offensive efficiency. None of them are as dangerous or balanced as Gonzaga, the No. 4 team in offensive efficiency. For a Duke team whose last two losses came to another high-scoring team, Notre Dame, the pressure is on to guard Gonzaga’s prolific scorers.
Athlon Staff Predictions
David Fox: Duke 79-70
Braden Gall: Duke 70-68
Mitch Light: Duke 77-73
Jake Rose: Duke 77-74