Mark Few became an assistant coach at Gonzaga in 1990 and the head coach in 1999. Never before had the Zags reached the Final Four – until Saturday, when they beat No. 11 Xavier, 83-59, in the West regional final.
“I can’t tell you the powerful elation that I felt right when the buzzer went off for those guys,” Few said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You know how I feel about my old Zags. Anytime I see one of those guys within this last three or four days or read a text or get a phone call from them, I literally got tears streaming down my face because of the impact it’s had on them. These guys are up at whatever time of night watching us. (Kevin) Pangos is over in Lithuania. I got a bunch of guys over in Europe and they’re all texting me. Oh my gosh, I feel blessed 100,000 times over. Good stuff.”
The challenge for Gonzaga – at least in theory – is compartmentalizing that elation and realizing that there are still potentially two games to be played.
That, however, doesn’t figure to be a problem.
“Monday’s practice was as good as we’ve had this year – and we’ve had some good ones,” Few said. “This team has been as dialed in and as focused as any team I’ve ever coached. When it’s time, it’s time. When you go 36-1 . . . these guys have not taken a whole lot of plays off or days off or practices off. They’re not done yet. They’re focused. I think probably the harder chore for me – this sounds crazy – is to get them to (relax and listen to), ‘Hey, guys, let’s take an hour and go absorb the pageantry and the history and just how cool the Final Four is itself and go have a good time and maybe not focus quite as much for this hour.’ I think we’ll be really good.”
Gonzaga will face No. 7 South Carolina (26-10) in the Final Four this Saturday in Glendale at 6:09 p.m. ET.
“It’s a crusade to score against these dudes,” Few said, comparing the Gamecocks to the Mountaineers. “They don’t full-court press as much as West Virginia, but you’re not going to swing the ball four or five times against South Carolina and get multiple actions in your offense. You need to find some things that are going to work, and you need to attack those and then deliver on your move or your drive or your shot. It’s not just about West Virginia’s press. Scoring the ball is every bit as difficult as it is getting it across (half-court), and the way they go to the glass is a lot like West Virginia.”
If victorious, Gonzaga will face the winner of No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) versus No. 3 Oregon (33-5) in the national championship April 3. Either opponent would be a tough matchup, but first things first: the Zags must survive South Carolina.
“This isn’t going to be the first one to 90,” Few said of the semifinal. “It’s not going to be one of those fast-paced games were buckets are coming easy. It’s going to be a grinder.”