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Why Gonzaga vs. Memphis felt like a Remaining 4 recreation within the second spherical of March Insanity

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The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been named the No. 1 general seed within the males’s NCAA event for the second straight 12 months, however it positive didn’t really feel prefer it when the remainder of the West Area was revealed on Choice Sunday. If the Zags have been going to get to the Remaining 4 for the third time in 5 years, they’d need to need to navigate by a treacherous path that includes a succesful opponent in each spherical. The West positive felt just like the dreaded Area of Loss of life.

Gonzaga’s run by the bracket confronted its first critical problem in spherical two in opposition to the Memphis Tigers. Memphis was no strange No. 8 seed. It was evident for the reason that preseason that the Tigers had one of the crucial proficient rosters within the nation, however accidents and lineup decisions threatened to derail their season halfway by January. Ultimately, the Tigers obtained wholesome and tweaked the rotation sufficient to shut the season with 12 wins of their final 14 video games coming into the event. They have been legitimately top-of-the-line groups in America by the numbers since Jan. 20.

Gonzaga wanted this win to proceed on its quest to win its first ever nationwide championship. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway needed a program-defining win of his personal by knocking off the highest crew within the nation and advancing to the Candy 16 in his first ever NCAA event look.

Gonzaga-Memphis had extra hype than any recreation within the spherical of 32. It didn’t simply meet the hype — it surpassed it.

Gonzaga’s thrilling 82-78 win put the Bulldogs into the second weekend for the seventh straight event. The sport had the depth and expertise of a Remaining 4 matchup with potential top-five NBA draft picks on either side and a charged environment inside Portland’s Moda Middle. We not get a greater recreation all event lengthy. Right here’s what made Gonzaga-Memphis so good.

Gonzaga vs. Memphis was extremely bodily from the early going

Memphis got here out making an attempt to go at Gonzaga’s all-world defender Chet Holmgren. Holmgren is extraordinarily skinny at 7-foot, 195 kilos, however in case you’ve ever watched him play he’s one of many hardest rim protectors in America.

The Tigers tried to problem him inside on a number of possessions throughout the first 5 minutes, and Holmgren principally put a rim on the lid.

Gonzaga fed the ball to Timme on the opposite finish, however he wasn’t in a position to set up deep sufficient put up place to attain within the first half. Regardless, Gonzaga’s dimension put Memphis’ finest entrance court docket defenders in early foul bother. Each Jalen Duren and DeAndre Williams sat lengthy stretches of the sport as a result of Hardaway needed to have them out there for crunch time.

It was the identical scenario for Gonzaga: Holmgren sat the final six minutes of the primary half after choosing up his second half. Memphis promptly went on a run to take a 10-point lead into halftime. Holmgren didn’t have an ideal offensive recreation, which is a credit score to Duren and the remainder of the Tigers. Seeing the massive boys inside go at it like this was such a deal with. We simply want they weren’t principally in foul bother.

Drew Timme erupted within the second half

Timme was top-of-the-line gamers within the nation final season as Gonzaga began 31-0 earlier than shedding to Baylor within the nationwide title. Whereas Gonzaga misplaced three key starters from that crew, they stored Timme, and that has been one of many largest causes they have been so good once more this 12 months.

After a quiet first half, Timme got here out aggressive out of the break, scoring 11 straight factors to open the body for Gonzaga. That included a play the place he hit solely his eighth three-pointer of the season, then continued to assault the Memphis bigs with rip by and put up strikes that stored strain on the Tigers’ bigs. Watch his full scoring show within the second half beneath:

Timme is a personality with an enormous persona, a truth he reminded us of after the ultimate whistle throughout a hilarious postgame interview. Faculty basketball is extra enjoyable with gamers like him.

Memphis did every part it may to push Gonzaga to the brink

All credit score to Hardaway and Memphis for an unbelievable efficiency. The Tigers totally turned their season round simply when there began to be hypothesis that maybe Penny wasn’t the correct man for the job. He discovered a option to maximize his crew as Williams returned from damage and the purpose guard scenario settled, and he had them enjoying their finest in opposition to arguably the most important bully within the sport.

Memphis didn’t get down all evening. They only ran out of gasoline.

If I’ve any criticism of Memphis, it’s this: why not let Williams and Duren attempt to play by foul bother as a substitute of sitting them so lengthy on the bench? Regardless, Memphis nonetheless practically stole the sport on the finish. This recreation ought to show that Hardaway is a big-time school coach.

It’s too dangerous Memphis didn’t decide it up somewhat sooner, as a result of there’s no method they need to have been seeing Gonzaga in spherical two. There’s little question they have been higher than a No. 8 seed.

Issues received’t get any simpler for Gonzaga with No. 4 seed Arkansas ready subsequent spherical, after which maybe a possible assembly with both Texas Tech or Duke within the Elite Eight. We’ll fear about that later. For now, cheers to Gonzaga and Memphis for giving us one hell of a present.

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