Florida State ended Gonzaga's season with a 75-60 upset in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles during its surprising run to the Elite Eight last March. And in what may be a case of be careful what you wish for, the top-seeded Zags have said they are looking forward to a rematch with the fourth-seeded Seminoles in the West Region semifinals on Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.
"Absolutely - 100 percent," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters when asked if he was looking forward to the rematch with the Seminoles. "We wouldn't want it any other way. It just so happened that we got Florida State again in the Sweet 16 and we have a special itch to take care of against them." Florida State has won eight of its last nine games, including a 90-62 thumping of Murray State and Ja Morant in the second round Saturday. The lone defeat in that stretch came in the ACC tournament final against Duke 73-63, and the Seminoles also lost to the Blue Devils 80-78 on a Cam Reddish 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds to go during the regular season. "I thought they were really, really under-seeded," Few said of the Seminoles after Gonzaga's 83-71 second-round victory over No. 9 seed Baylor. "They had Duke beat at their place and played great all year. I thought they'd end up on the two line and to see them at four; that's kind of tough. You have to beat really good teams to advance in this thing. So we knew we were going to have to play somebody really good, and Florida State is no doubt that."
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ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (29-7): The Seminoles will be without senior forward Phil Cofer (7.4 points), who besides battling a foot injury also lost his father, former NFL linebacker Mike Cofer, to a lengthy illness just before the win over the Racers. "I think that's why you saw our guys so focused," coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters. "I think the night was in response to the respect we had for Murray State, but also the respect we had for Mr. Cofer. And we wanted him to be happy with the way we performed tonight." Sophomore forward Mfiondu Kabengele, who had 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the win over Murray State, leads the team in scoring (13.4) with 6-7 guard Terance Mann also averaging in double figures (11.6) and grabbing a team best 6.5 rebounds per game.
ABOUT GONZAGA (32-3): The Zags have three likely first-round NBA picks up front including two junior forwards - 6-8 Rui Hachimura, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, and 6-8 Brandon Clarke, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year - who are likely lottery picks in June. Hachimura leads the team in scoring (19.7) and shoots 46.9 percent from 3-point range while Clarke is second in scoring (17.0), tops the team in rebounding (8.4) and leads the NCAA with 110 blocks. Killian Tillie, a 6-10 junior forward who missed last year's loss to Florida State but will play this time around despite missing a good chunk of the season with ankle and foot injuries, is shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range and averaging 6.7 points off the bench, while guards Zach Norvell Jr. (15.1) and Josh Perkins (10.8) also average in double digits scoring.
1. Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring offense (88.6), field goal percentage (53.2), scoring margin (23.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.76).
2. Clarke had 36 points in the win over Baylor, breaking the school NCAA Tournament record of 35 points held by Adam Morrison.
3. Perkins needs two assists to break the school single-season record of 225. The Zags are 70-8 when he records at least five assists in a game.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 82, Florida State 76 Bet Now
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