|Gonzaga focused, fired up for Fairleigh Dickinson|
Gonzaga is almost a perfectly constructed team, a powerhouse that steamrolled most of its opponents this season.
Farleigh Dickson is suddenly a lovable underdog.
No. 1 seed Gonzaga has been building toward the NCAA Tournament all season, while the Knights popped onto the national radar Tuesday night by rallying for an 82-76 victory over Prairie View A&M in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio.
The Bulldogs and 16th-seeded Farleigh Dickinson will play in a West Region first-round game in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
If it needed it, Gonzaga (30-3) can claim extra motivation after it played its ugliest game of the season when it lost 60-47 to Saint Mary's in a slow-down affair in the West Coast Conference title game on March 12.
"That was super tough for us," said forward Brandon Clarke, "but it will be good for us because now we kind of have that fire and hype to want to go play again."
Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed for the third time in its history and was also on the top line in 2017, when the Bulldogs reached their first Final Four and busted through to the title game, losing 71-65 to North Carolina.
"It's an honor to be the No. 1 seed," said coach Mark Few, whose teams have reached four consecutive Sweet 16s. "Especially with the way this year has gone, I think everyone started talking, thinking about this a while ago."
Farleigh Dickinson (21-13) roared back from a 13-point second-half deficit Tuesday night to win its first NCAA Tournament game in six tries.
"It's history. It's amazing. All the glory goes to my players and my staff," coach Greg Herenda said on truTV. "I just basically have to get out of the way more."
Senior guard Darnell Edge, the Northeast Conference tournament Most Valuable Player, scored a career-high 33 points and boosted his team-leading average to 16.9 points per game. Guard Jahlil Jenkins scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half.
Edge drained 7 of 9 3-pointers Tuesday night and has made 91 of 188 (48.4 percent) for the season.
He signed with FDU in late summer before his freshman year after having no other Division I offers. Look at him now, Herenda said.
"If any of the kids that are watching this tournament -- I know you want to watch (Duke forward) Zion (Williamson) and all the great ones; so do I -- but these are the heroes," Herenda said. "These are the heroes, the kids that are like the people watching TV that get better every day. And that's why March to me is mad. It's mad."
Gonzaga seems to check all the boxes: Size. Depth. Star power. Versatility. Three-point shooting. Health. Coaching. An early season win over Duke in the Maui Invitational.
Junior forward Rui Hachimura is averaging 20.1 points and has NBA draft lottery talent. Senior point guard Josh Perkins averages 6.5 assists, helping Gonzaga lead the nation in field goal percentage (53.2). Clarke averages 16.5 points and 3.1 blocks, shoots a national-best 69.3 percent from the field and is one of four finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.
Zach Norvell Jr., Corey Kispert or Killian Tillie -- a 6-10 junior who returned for the WCC tournament after recovering from a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot -- all are capable of making big impacts. Tillie missed 22 games this season because of two foot injuries.
"We're healthy," Few said. "So that's a good thing."
--Field Level Media