BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 03/24/2014

Gonzaga’s brutal exit adds to the madness

A second-game loss, sure — it’s a Zags tradition. But a crushing by Arizona was not foreseen. Still, little was predictable in a splendid first weekend of the NCAA hoops tourney.

After an ankle injury, Kevin Pangos is helped from the court by Gonzaga coach Mark Few. / Gonzaga University

When did Gonzaga become Washington State?

Or is the better question: When did Arizona become the San Antonio Spurs?

Arizona’s 84-61 obliteration of the non-competitive Zags Sunday night in San Diego was the last and final rivet that popped on the one of the most astonishing weekends in the madness of March, as defined by NCAA basketball.

Even though recent tradition had eighth-seeded Gonzaga exiting in its second game — this was the fifth tourney in a row that the Zags bowed out in the round of 32 — few, including Mark Few, expected the Zags to be walloped as if they were middle-school jayvees.

“That Arizona team we saw tonight was as good a team as we have faced, that I can remember,” the chagrined Gonzaga coach said. “It was just too much for us tonight.”

West Region No. 1 seed Arizona, with the nation’s most efficient defense, forced 21 turnovers that led to 31 points, smashing any fantasy about a repeat of the epic game by the schools in the 2003 tourney, a two-point Wildcats win.

The Wildcats won their first two games of the Pac-12 tourney by 32 (Utah) and 2o (Colorado) before a four-point loss to UCLA, which also reached the round of 16. In San Antonio, Arizona beat Weber State by nine before the Zags takedown, in which they held Kentridge High’s Gary Bell Jr., who was averaging 11.2 a game, scoreless.

Arizona and UCLA were joined by a third Pac-12 team, 10th-seeded Stanford, in the round of 16. The Cardinal, whose languid finish in the Pac-12 regular season — they even lost to Washington, 64-60 — suggested to some they didn’t belong in the tourney, beat second-seeded Kansas 60-57 Sunday to advance.

The Jayhawks were the second No. 2 seed to fall, after Villanova lost Saturday to No. 7 Connecticut 77-65. But neither second seed was a match for the thud of Midwest No. 1 seed Wichita State and its 35-game unbeaten streak. All went away in a 78-76 loss to No. 8 Kentucky, which suddenly looks like Kentucky after a faltering regular season.

So the top four lines of seeds have remaining three No. 1s, two No. 2s, one No. 3, and all four No. 4s, including UCLA. And besides Stanford, two other double-digit seeds remain, Tennessee and Dayton, both 11s.

All four West Coast teams play Thursday: Dayton and Stanford meet in the round’s first game, in the South Region at Memphis at 4:15 p.m., followed by UCLA against No. 1 Florida. Arizona in the West Region at Anaheim draws No. 4 San Diego State, which lost to the Wildcats by nine in the regular season, at 7:17 p.m.

SWEET 16

South Region
At Memphis

No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford,  4:15 p.m. Thursday, CBS

No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA, 6:45 p.m. Thursday, CBS

West Region
At Anaheim

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, 4:47 p.m. Thursday, TBS

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State, 7:17 p.m. Thursday, TBS

Midwest Region
At Indianapolis

No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 2 Michigan 4:15 p.m. Friday, CBS

No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Louisville | 6:45 p.m. Friday, CBS

East Region
At New York

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut, 4:27 p.m. Friday, TBS

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State, 6:57 p.m. Friday, TBS

ELITE EIGHT

South Region: Florida-UCLA winner vs. Dayton-Stanford winner, Saturday

West Region: San Diego State-Arizona vs. Baylor-Wisconsin winner, Saturday

Midwest Region: Kentucky-Louisville winner vs. Tennessee-Michigan winner, Sunday

East Region: Virginia-Michigan State winner vs. Iowa State-UConn winner, Sunday

FINAL FOUR

Arlington, TX.

South champion vs. East champion, April 5, TBS
West champion vs. Midwest champion, April 5, TBS

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

South champion winner-East champion winner vs. West champion-Midwest champion winner  April 7, CBS


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Didn’t think the Zags were going to pull off the upset but that was an outright spanking. I’m rooting for Stanford this season and so far they’re looking pretty good.

    • art thiel

      Isn’t rooting for Stanford like rooting for the one percenters?

      • Jamo57

        And Harvard.

        • RadioGuy

          Or rooting for athletes who actually had to take an entrance exam and attend classes while they’re enrolled? Give me a Clem Haskins-coached team anytime. Those guys weren’t screwing around in college being students or anything.

          • art thiel

            There are more subtle reasons it’s called the Big Dance. As in, dancing around the question of who goes to class.

  • Jamo57

    With all the turnovers and the perception the two teams were playing at vastly different speeds, we were making a Broncos analogy of the Zags last night.

    • art thiel

      Good one. Stockton does Manning.

  • Bayview Herb

    One of the things I was discussed with this tourney was the failure of the coaches in training their big guys at center to NOT dribble once before putting the ball up. These were right under the basket and allowing the two steps wa not necessary. I think it was the Louisville game that every time the center got the ball he put it on the floor. More often than not, it was stolen or he lost control.