No. 1 Gonzaga advances in NCAA tournament

Gonzaga ended the 11th-seeded Xavier Musketeers’ Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a 83-59 victory to advance to the Final Four.

The trip to the Final Four will be the first in school history for the No. 1 seed Bulldogs, who were playing in their second Elite Eight in three seasons and ran their record up to 36-1 by winning the West Region final.

Waiting for them Saturday, April 1, will be the winner of Sunday’s East Region final between No. 4 Florida and No. 7 South Carolina.

Gonzaga, which nearly went unbeaten this season before dropping its Feb. 25 regular-season finale to BYU, won both the West Coast Conference’s regular season and tournament titles on their way to earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

They routed South Dakota State 66-46 in their NCAA Tournament opener before winning closer games against Northwestern and West Virginia to reach the Elite Eight.

Xavier, which finishes with a 24-14 record on the season, had knocked out higher-seeded teams in each round of the tournament before coming up against Gonzaga. They beat sixth-seeded Maryland to open the tournament, then routed third-seeded Florida State to reach the Sweet 16 where they upset second-seeded Arizona.

The Musketeers had to overcome injuries and a late-season slump to qualify for the tournament, finishing with a 9-9 record in Big East Conference play. Their case was helped with two wins in the conference tournament, include a win over fellow Sweet 16 team Butler, before falling to Creighton in the Big East semifinals.