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Thousands of fans in red and blue were rallying hours before the tipoff, turning it into a de facto road game.

Now the NCAA's winningest program will play another of basketball's titans Sunday in top-seeded North Carolina with a trip to yet another Final Four on the line. That sent Gonzaga into the half with a 49-39 lead.

STOPPING KARNOWSKI: Xavier's biggest task on Saturday will be to stop the biggest player in college basketball: Gonzaga's 7-foot-1, 300-pound center Przemek Karnowski.

I bring up Logan's tweet because the Jayhawks have straight-up mashed their opponents in three NCAA tournaments games, covering the spread by an average of 18.3 points.

Gonzaga's bench was already on the court to head to the locker room as Macura's miraculous heave went in, but the replays revealed the shot was no good.

The U.S. team was scheduled to fly to Panama late Saturday night for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Panama City.

The Gonzaga defense watched as Xavier shot just 36.1 percent from the field in the loss. At the half, Gonzaga went into the locker room up by 10, but that lead was nearly amazingly cut to seven because of J.P. Macura. Somehow, it made its way into the basket, giving the Musketeers two points.

A NEW SEC TOURNAMENT: The Southeastern Conference enters the regional finals standing alone among leagues. Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, where competition isn't as stiff as, say, in the ACC.

After the victory against Xavier, Jordan Mathews -he also plays guard, and I swear Gonzaga isn't made up entirely of backcourt players - downplayed the meaning of the accomplishment.

More news: North Korea again experiences failure to launch

Gonzaga has had a great season, but I think Xavier has too much momentum right now.

For Gonzaga, the 19th time was the charm.

Like a top soccer team, Gonzaga built a title contender by dipping into the transfer market.

Only two teams have won first-round games each of the past nine seasons - the Bulldogs and mighty Kansas.

The Cinderella run ends for Xavier.


The Musketeers came this close to scoring some more miraculous points when J.P. Macura sank this 75-footer on the next possession, but the shot was called off after a review determined he hadn't released it in time. They made three of them, including two by Josh Perkins, to take an early 12-10 lead over the Musketeers. Gonzaga's defensive rating - 86 points allowed per 100 possessions - is the best in the nation after allowing West Virginia to shoot 26.7%. They finished 17 for 56 from the field (30.4 percent), including 3 for 13 from 3-point range. Like Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, Xavier grinded out a hard fought win over Arizona to punch their ticket.

With all of these dominoes on the cusp of falling, it would be the Zags marching on to the Final Four for the first time in the history of their program, leaving the Musketeers sadly a bridesmaid instead of the bride once again. The Jayhawks have not been to a Final Four since 2012, while OR hasn't gotten past the Elite Eight since winning the 1939 national championship.

Kansas and OR are slated to go head-to-head in the Midwest. Xavier lost to Duke in a 2004 regional final and fell to UCLA in a 2008 regional championship. OR lost Chris Boucher in the Pac-12 tournament, but Florida has been playing without John Egbunu since mid-February.