NCAA regional finals preview: Oregon vs. Kansas; Xavier vs. Gonzaga

Nigel Williams Goss, Jordan Bowden, Kyle Alexander
Guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) and Gonzaga is one win away from the program’s first Final Four appearance. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

How the teams match up in the finals of the Midwest Region and West Region on Saturday.


at Kansas City, Mo.

No. 3-seeded Oregon (32-5) vs. No. 1-seeded Kansas (31-4)


Time: 4:49 p.m. PDT.

Bottom line: The top-seeded Jayhawks have rolled into the Elite Eight, winning their first three games by an average of 30 points. That includes a 98-66 rout of No. 5 seed Purdue in the Sweet 16, when they set a school record for a tournament game with 15 3-pointers. Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III poured in four of them and finished with 26 points. Meanwhile, the No. 3 seed Ducks are chasing their first Final Four appearance since winning the 1939 title with the “Tall Firs.” They’re led by Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, and have precisely the kind of quick, guard-oriented lineup that should match up well with the Jayhawks’ four-guard starting array.

Final Four the goal: Kansas is trying to reach its third national semifinal under Bill Self and first since 2012, when the Jayhawks lost to Kentucky in the title game. Not only has Oregon failed to reach a Final Four in nearly eight decades, coach Dana Altman has never made it despite nearly 600 wins and 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Matchup to watch: Brooks will likely match up with Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, creating one of the best one-on-one matchups in the tournament. Brooks had 12 points in a regional semifinal win over Michigan, while Jackson had 15 points and 12 boards against the Boilermakers.


Missing big men: Two big contributors will be sitting Saturday night out: Oregon forward Chris Boucher tore his ACL in a Pac-12 Tournament game against California, while Kansas center Udoka Azubuike had season-ending wrist surgery in January.

Did you know? The Jayhawks and Ducks have met once in the NCAA Tournament, when Kansas won 104-86 in the Midwest Regional finals on Dec. 7, 2002. The Jayhawks lost to eventual national champion Maryland in the Final Four in Atlanta.


at San Jose, Calif.

No. 11-seeded Xavier (24-13) vs. No. 1-seeded Gonzaga (35-1)

Time: 3:09 p.m. PDT

Bottom line: Two teams once considered mid-majors are on the cusp of their first Final Four. Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament 19 straight seasons, the fourth-longest streak in the nation. The Bulldogs have been to the Elite Eight twice before and entes Saturday’s game with 27 NCAA Tournament wins. The Musketeers also are making their third Elite Eight appearance and match Gonzaga in all-time wins. Xavier has already knocked off No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 2 Arizona in this year’s bracket.

Battling Bluiett: Trevon Bluiett has played a big role in Xavier’s run since point guard Edmond Sumner was lost for the season with a torn left ACL. The junior guard scored 18 first-half points in the Sweet 16 against Arizona, one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams, and finished with 25 in the 73-71 victory.


More from Williams-Goss: Gonzaga won its Sweet 16 games over West Virginia despite an off night by point guard Nigel Williams-Goss. The WCC player of the year had several shots blocked and finished with 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting with five turnovers. The Bulldogs will need him to play well to hold off Xavier’s upset bid.

The big guy: Xavier’s biggest challenge, literally, is stopping Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound center. Xavier’s biggest player is 6-10 forward Sean O’Mara, who gives up more than 50 pounds to Karnowski.

Did you know? Gonzaga and Xavier are both Jesuit schools that have met four times previously. The Bulldogs have won three straight, including a 72-65 victory in 2011. Xavier won the lone NCAA Tournament meeting, beating Gonzaga 79-75 in the first round in 2006.

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