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Final Four: Pacific Northwest Eyeing Glory

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Oregon, Gonzaga represent the PNW in 2017 Final Four

Seton Hall v Arkansas Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Oregon and Gonzaga both advanced to the Final Four without much national support. It had been 54 years since a team represented the Pacific Northwest in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. In 2017, not one but two PNW programs are seeking a national championship.

In 1963, the Oregon State Beavers advanced to the Final Four. That was the last team from the PNW to advance to this stage of the tournament. We know it’s a long time when we are mentioning OSU basketball in the same breath as success.

Nevertheless, this season both squads are NOT just happy to be apart of the festivities. Instead, the Ducks and Bulldogs are focused on making history for their respective program.

Oregon v Kansas
Jordan Bell led Oregon to their first Final Four appearance in 78 years. His eight blocked shots against No. 1 Kansas was a program record. He was later named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player for 2017. Bell was also the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Most outside the west want to see an all-Carolina title bout between North and South. Shocker. Why don’t they raise the stakes then? The loser of that game should abandon their state name for the next year, while renaming themselves after the winner.

Nobody in the Pacific Northwest wants to see anything short of the best from the state of Oregon against the best from the state of Washington. It would be an epic showdown and the winner would undeniably represent the PNW proudly.

On a side note, Oregon has defeated Gonzaga basketball in 15 consecutive games. Of course, that streak dates back further than most lifespans, yet it’s something interesting to keep in mind.

The Ducks (33-5) advanced to the Final Four for the first time in 78 years. The 77-year drought was the longest in college basketball history between appearances. Oregon won the first NCAA Tournament Championship in 1939.

Yet, the Ducks were not even the Ducks back then. Oregon was known as the Webfoots or the “Tall Firs” during that ‘39 season. UO won that final in Evanston, Illinois at Northwestern University.

Ironically, Gonzaga slipped past No. 8 seed Northwestern, 79-73, in the second round of this tournament. The Wildcats made their first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2017. Additionally, I grew up 10 minutes from the Evanston campus. Can you say full circle? Coincidence, most likely.

Gonzaga (36-1) advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history. After years of falling just short for head coach Mark Few, he finally delivered for the program and their rapid fanbase in 2017.

Xavier v Gonzaga
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few celebrates his 83-59 victory over Xavier in the 2017 Elite Eight. With the win, Few advanced the Bulldogs to their first Final Four in school history. Gonzaga, like Oregon, is seeking more than just an appearance.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Both teams have their hands full with Carolina teams. However, one more win each would do the trick for the PNW’s national respect. Two more victories would capture a piece of college basketball history for this great region.

No. 1 Gonzaga (36-1) will face a defensive-minded No. 7 South Carolina (26-10) from the SEC. The road has been fairly mild for the Bulldogs and SC mirrors their style. This should be a close game, but I see Gonzaga advancing to the final. Tip is set for 3:09 p.m. PT from the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

No. 3 Oregon (33-5) meets No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) in the 2017 Final Four. Tip is set for 5:49 p.m. PT from the University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday. UO is seeking their first title appearance in 78 years and could get there if this team limits UNC’s second-chance opportunities. Stick around for my Final Four Preview coming soon.

Both games will be televised by CBS.

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