Ore­gon, Gon­zaga stand up for re­gion

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

Tyler Dorsey had just led Ore­gon to its first Fi­nal Four in nearly eight decades when he looked into a TV cam­era and passed along a very sim­ple mes­sage to all those East Coast fans.

The ones who are of­ten asleep be­fore the Ducks have even taken the floor.

“Wake ’em up,” Dorsey said with a grin. “Wake up!”

All of col­lege bas­ket­ball is awake to the West Coast now, af­ter the Ducks dumped top-seeded Kansas and No. 1 seed Gon­zaga routed Xavier to send two teams from the Pa­cific time zone to the na­tional semi­fi­nals for the first time in NCAA Tour­na­ment his­tory.

If one of them should win the ti­tle, it would be the first for a school west of the Mis­sis­sippi in a decade, and the first by a true West Coast team since UCLA in 1995.

“We’ve opened a lot of peo­ples’ eyes as far as peo­ple think­ing the West Coast is soft and we’re not as good as the East Coast, East Coast bias and stuff like that,” the Ducks’ Jor­dan Bell said. “I re­ally hope we’ve opened peo­ples’ eyes. I hope peo­ple see we’re as good as any­body else.

“Just put up a court,” Bell said. “We’ll see who is best.” Hard to ar­gue who that is so far. Gon­zaga has been march­ing to­ward na­tional promi­nence for years, but only reached the Fi­nal Four for the first time when it dumped the Mus­ke­teers on Satur­day night. The Ducks are headed back for the first time since 1939, when the team dubbed the “Tall Firs” won their only ti­tle.

In do­ing so, coach Dana Alt­man’s team gave the Pac-12 — which started with four teams in the field — a 10-3 mark in this year’s tour­na­ment.

“It means a lot for us to hold it down for the Pac-12,” the Ducks’ Tyler Dorsey said. “We take pride in that. They al­ways talk about how West Coast bas­ket­ball is not as good as who­ever, but we don’t worry about that. We just lace them up and go play and play as hard as we can.”

Sure, there will still be one tra­di­tional pow­er­house at the Fi­nal Four in the Phoenix sub­urb of Glen­dale, Ari­zona. North Carolina de­feated Ken­tucky 75-73 for its spot on Sun­day. But it makes sense that the West Coast is so well rep­re­sented, con­sid­er­ing it’s the first Fi­nal Four that far west since Seat­tle hosted in 1995.

Yep, the one where the Bru­ins won their 11th na­tional cham­pi­onship.

“I think it has a ten­dency to some­times be cycli­cal,” said Gon­zaga coach Mark Few, who pointed out how good Ari­zona, UCLA and sev­eral other West Coast teams were this sea­son. “But it’s also luck and breaks and matchups and just if it’s not your night. We’ve cer­tainly been good enough dur­ing that time to get there and we just didn’t get it done.”

This year’s bunch of Bull­dogs did.

So did the Ducks, whose Fi­nal Four trip is es­pe­cially sweet: It’s the first for Alt­man, who had guided Kansas State, Creighton and Ore­gon to 13 tour­na­ments with­out mak­ing it; it ends a drought that stretches back to FDR’s pres­i­dency; and it will be played close enough that many of the play­ers’ fam­i­lies can drive to the desert, a lux­ury rarely af­forded to West Coast schools.

Bell is from Long Beach, California, for ex­am­ple. Dorsey is from Los An­ge­les.

RICH SUGG / KANSAS CITY STAR

Ore­gon guard Tyler Dorsey says the dis­re­spected Pac-12 de­served to have a Fi­nal Four team.

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