Unbeaten Gonzaga staying loose as tourney winds down

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Coach Mark Few, freshman star Jalen Suggs and top-seeded Gonzaga are chasing history in Indianapolis.

The Zags need three more wins to win their first national championship and become the first undefeated men’s champion in 45 years.

Conventional wisdom might suggest the pressure should be increasing as the finish line draws nearer. Not a chance with this team.

“There’s a looseness about them because you’ve got Drew Timme on your team, for one, and Joel Ayayi has just an infectious enthusiasm about him,” Few said. “Heck, Jalen’s 19 years old. This is his first time through. He doesn’t know any different. So he’s having a great time.”

There may be another reason things haven’t gotten too hairy for the Zags (29-0) yet — Timme’s handlebar mustache.

While the All-American’s facial hair has been all the rage this season and the discussion has only picked up during the tournament, guard Andrew Nembhard may have given away the secret to Gonzaga’s success after the Zags beat Creighton in Sunday’s West Region semifinal.

“Every time he has that ’stache, he’s been playing well,” Nembhard said. “I’m all for the ’stache, honestly. He’s that type of person with that type of personality. It fits, and we’re all for it at this point.”

NO SLEEP TILL INDY

Southern California coach Andy Enfield didn’t really get to celebrate his team’s milestone win over Oregon.

After arriving at the hotel about 1 a.m. Monday, Enfield spent the next three hours watching video of the Trojans’ opponent in the West Region final, top-seeded Gonzaga. The wake-up call came at 11:15 a.m. and then it was off to the NCAA’s mandated news conference and an early practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It is a quick turnaround time, especially when you played a late game and your players get to bed at 3 in the morning,” Enfield said. “So we’ll to do our best to get rested, take a nap this afternoon and then be up be ready to go Tuesday night.”

USC will have several hours less rest than Gonzaga before the game. The Zags played the first of Sunday’s four regional semifinals. USC played in the final game of the day.

The Trojans won’t complain after reaching the Elite Eight for the first time in 20 years.

“This is what it is. It’s March Madness,” USC guard Tahj Eaddy said. “It’s been a crazy year all year due to COVID-19. This is really no surprise. We’re going to make the most of it.”

LA LA LAND

Through their long history as crosstown foes, there’s one place USC and UCLA have never met: the NCAA Tournament.

It could happen next weekend, though it would take two upsets. First, the Trojans would have to knock off unbeaten Gonzaga. Then, if the 11th-seeded Bruins beat No. 1 seed Michigan in the East Region championship game, the crosstown rivals would finally meet in the NCAA tourney.

That matchup would also assure the Pac-12 of having a team in the title game after the conference has outplayed the rest of the Power Five in the tourney.

While UCLA has a record 11 championship banners, it hasn’t played in the Final Four since 2008. USC has never made it and this is the first time the two Los Angeles schools have ever made the Elite Eight in the same season.

“We come here because of the winning history, the winning culture and we come here to win,” UCLA guard Jules Bernard said. “Not just win games, we come here to win titles. Obviously that’s the history with this program.”

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