This past week has been proof once again that good ideas, programs and people don’t quickly disappear at the first or second setbacks. Proof of that comes in the gradual ascendancy of the Gonzaga University Bulldogs men’s basketball team over the past two decades. As of today, Mark Few’s squad is off to the Final Four this week after winning the West Regionals in four very entertaining and well-played games. Admittedly, Gonzaga did get the easier of the four possible paths to the championship round in Phoenix, but nothing detracts from the fact that this edition is a well-honed group of athletes who know how to shoot, dribble, defend, and move without the ball. Their big man Karnuski, a fifth year player with some impressive numbers, sums up what the Zags (their other name) are all about: tough on the boards, constantly in the face, fluid in transition, and, as an alumnus and follower of this school since 1982, I watched this Western Athletic program produce some excellent NBA players – Stockton, Morrison, Olynk – on their way to two Elite Eight finishes along with fifteen appearances in the Big Dance. Not bad for a small regional Jesuit school who has had to scratch and scrap to compete with the bigger universities in attracting big name recruits. To show how successful Few and his staff have been, Gonzaga is now attracting high quality transferees from the Big Ten and Pac 12 because they have created a very winning athletic way to go with their excellent academic environment. While I am not sure if Gonzaga can make it all the way, at least I know I finally have a team in the finals that I can cheer for out of pure loyalty rather than sheer guesswork. Unlike the one in a hundred quintilion chance of getting the brackets completely right, Gonzaga’s chances look even better now that two of the No. 1 seeds are out and it doesn’t have to face the Tarheels in the semi-finals. Yesterday’s round of games yielded yet another prominent moment when North Carolina defeated Kentucky in the last second. Strangely, I had turned the game off in the last ten seconds because I thought NC – leading by three – had the game in the bag, and I had to take care of an incoming call. In the space of six seconds, the Wildcats had tied the game up with a twenty-five foot trey. In hindsight, I am glad I didn’t take in those last nail-betting seconds, because I didn’t want Calapari’s ‘one and gone’, factory-run team to win. Recruiting topnotch freshmen players to play a year at Lexington in order to leave early for the NBA draft is, for me, nothing short of bad form and taste. Hopefully, I will not have wait too long before this opportunistic practice is finally repudiated, though the growing presence of big money in the pro-ranks makes this wish somewhat gratuitous. I wonder how many of the Celtics’ great stable of draft choices are of that class of short-terms. It is nice to see schools that have competitive programs that are strong enough to keep player loyalty over four to five years.