A historic NCAA men’s basketball tournament filled with a record number of upsets might strike concern into top-ranked title favorite Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs rolled through Oklahoma on Monday in their typical, convincing fashion.
Sophomore big man Drew Timme said the team has paid attention to the double-digit seeds knocking off highly seeded teams across the board — but for a team that understands what’s at stake this month, it hasn’t changed much.
“We’ve definitely seen the games going on, but you know, it’s March and anything can happen,” Timme said. “We’re treating this game like we’re a 16-seed and we’re the underdog. You’ve gotta bring that fire. All it takes is one good game and you can be out. We’re bringing our all, every single game.”
Gonzaga improved to 28-0 with the 87-71 win, and the Bulldogs will play the winner of Monday’s game between No. 5 Creighton and No. 13 Ohio.
It’s the sixth straight Sweet 16 appearance for Gonzaga, the nation’s longest active streak.
“The first thing has been the whole key for us has been this group I’m coaching,” coach Mark Few said. “I literally think they can handle anything, probably even being shipwrecked on a deserted island, and they’d figure it out. They’re a joy.”
Oklahoma made some shots early and jumped out to a 12-4 lead, but Gonzaga took the lead about nine minutes into the game and never trailed again. Timme was the star of the game, finishing with 30 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Jalen Suggs (16 points) and Corey Kispert (16 points) were also key contributors.
The Sooners, who were without starting point guard De’Vion Harmon due to a positive COVID-19 test, got 27 points from Austin Reaves, but forward Brady Manek struggled against Gonzaga’s defense, shooting 1-for-8 from the field and finishing with three points.
Gonzaga is going to be the favorite in every game moving forward, and with 2-seed Iowa and 4-seed Virginia both already knocked out of the West region, the perception is the Bulldogs have an easy road to the Final Four. But there have been 12 upsets by teams seeded five spots or lower than their opponent, which could put the Zags on notice.
“There are a lot of good teams out there,” Few said. “When you play them on the biggest stage and it’s just one game, it’s not a seven-game series, anything can happen. And there’s a lot of great coaches out there, you give them enough time to gameplan for stuff like this, they’re going to take away your strengths. Somebody maybe you’ve never heard of gets hot. All us teams, we go through phases. Sometimes we’re playing good, sometimes we level off and are not so good.”
Gonzaga celebrated the win after the game in the locker room, but Few said the team is trying to celebrate every win at this point in the season. During the past five Sweet 16 appearances, two ended in the regional semifinals, two ended in the Elite Eight and they reached the national championship game in 2017 before losing to North Carolina.
This will be their best chance at a title, and they know it.
“This feeling’s only gonna last the rest of the night and then we gotta prepare,” Timme said. “Lot of work to do. We got a lot of things we can work on. We’re not satisfied with this, this is not the end goal.”