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Gonzaga Basketball

John Blanchette: 36 reasons why Gonzaga can win it all

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams defends the rim against Xavier guard J.P. Macura in Saturday’s win that sent the Zags to the Final Four. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As you may have heard, Gonzaga’s 36th victory of the college basketball season on Saturday night earned the Bulldogs a spot in their first Final Four. Oregon, South Carolina and North Carolina eventually joined the party – because this is a competition, not a coronation.

So surely there must be at least 36 reasons the Zags can win it all in Phoenix:

1: Because after Mark Few cut down the last of the net in San Jose, he hollered to his players “Might as well win it!”

2: By contrast, South Carolina coach Frank Martin asked, in his locker room after beating Florida, “Why not?”

3: The declarative always beats a question, especially one that sounds as if there’s a shrug attached.

4: Gonzaga is the only one of probabilities jockey Nate Silver’s most-likely-to-win-its-region teams to actually reach the Final Four, and was his pick after the first weekend to take the whole thing.

5: That comeback from picking Hillary to win the White House has to start somewhere.

6: Right, Nate?

7: Doesn’t have anything to do with the Zags winning it all, necessarily, but an Oregon-Gonzaga final would force Washington fans to a pick a side: razor blades or rope?

8: In the last 32 years — from when the bracket expanded to 64 teams — the second-ranked team in the last Associated Press poll has won the championship more times than No. 1 has or a team of any other rank.

9: No. 2 in this year’s final poll? You know it.

10: The Zags recognize no limitations on the court, and obey them off. “If I could do a backflip now,” said a spent Josh Perkins after GU beat Xavier, “I would.”

11: Because the Zags are bringing Kaitlyn Virola — the Mop Girl who foiled Perkins’ dunk Saturday night — to Phoenix for good luck.

12: And if they aren’t, then somebody should start a GoFundMe page to get it done.

13: ESPN’s probabologists give the Zags a 42 percent chance of winning it all — essentially, Gonzaga against the field.

14: North Carolina’s players can’t stick around for Monday’s title game, having to get back to campus to double-check the homework tutors did for them.

15: Because Johnathan Williams can snag a rebound while still trying to put on a shoe that came off at the other end of the court.

16: Przemek Karnowski’s beard, of course. Does another Final Four facial accessory have its own Twitter account?

17: Or a win over Duke?

18: Because alum Jay Bilas now has to cultivate some whiskers to pay off a dare regarding the Bulldogs making the Final Four.

19: Because the last Final Four first-timer to win the championship was UConn in 1999 and that’s the year this whole magic act started at Gonzaga.

20: And the Huskies beat GU in the Elite Eight to get there.

21: And there’s some nice symmetry in that.

22: Because even in celebration, the Bulldogs are self-aware enough not to abandon logic.

23: “It’s every emotion balled up into one,” Perkins said of the Final Four achievement, “except the bad ones.”

24: That’s one example. Another was redshirting forward Jacob Larsen joining his jumping teammates at center court, being careful to hop up and down only on the one leg that didn’t need to have a knee surgically repaired last fall.

25: Only two No. 1 seeds remain — the Zags and North Carolina — and No. 1s have won 19 finals since 1985, the beginning of the big-bracket era.

26: Because Northwestern Screaming and Crying Kid will get really upset if he can’t say his Wildcats lost to the eventual national champs.

27: The lotto factor. Gonzaga has beaten the seed combination 16-8-4-11 to get to the Final Four. Those numbers have never come up for any other champion.

28: Gotta be due.

29: Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you buy your Powerball tickets?

30: Because the Bulldogs are 51-27 against ACC, Pac-12 and SEC teams in the Mark Few era.

31: Because Few’s preference for no neckties trumps Dana Altman’s no-jacket accountant look, grandfatherly Roy Williams’ muted plaids or whatever Frank Martin wears.

32: Frank looks about as comfortable in a suit as Joe Pesci did in that second-hand organ grinder’s wedding tux in “My Cousin Vinny.”

33: Only Kentucky, in 2012, entered the Final Four with as many victories as the Zags.

34: And finished as national champions that year.

35: Because it’s entirely possible the Bulldogs are the best team. Novel concept.

36: Heels, Cocks and Ducks? C’mon.