Bill Conti is a very well-known composer. He did the film scores for James Bonds' For Your Eyes Only, Dynasty, Karate Kid and other movies. Saying Conti was well-known in the music business was an understatement. But one movie that was huge for his career was Rocky. Conti was on the scene and created a score that plenty loved. This memorable score that accompanied Rocky's training montage, "Gonna Fly Now", ended up topping the Billboard singles charts in 1977 and even earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. But it was another score that caught the attention of many who loved the iconic film. "Going The Distance" score in the Rocky series of movies. If the name does not ring well for you, then check out the score here. Now that you have familiarized yourself, that song probably brings back memories for those that have watched all the movies over time. Gonzaga may not have memories of the Final Four, being that this is their first time there. But the memories over the years of the failures to make the Final Four have to have subsided.
The Bulldogs were not exactly a team that many thought would make it this far this year. They are always talented, but they always seem to have a hiccup come tournament time. This year, they were able to fight off that hiccup and the main component in that is the age of this team. In this day and age, college basketball is full with coaches trying to make a run with a young team before they all leave for the NBA. Kentucky's John Calipari deals with that essentially every season. But when you look at Gonzaga, they are the opposite of the one-and-done culture. Mark Few's squad has five of his top eight that are upperclassmen and two of them are high-level transfers from Washington (Nigel Williams-Goss) and Missouri (Jonathan Williams). When teams get in tough stretches, their character is revealed. Many of these older players have been through more of these pressure situations than some of these young players coming in every single season. So when they hit tough stretches, they lean on each other and depend on that veteran guile to get them through. That cool under pressure and that inner strength really helped the Bulldogs when they faced West Virginia in the Sweet 16. In a physical game, some thought Gonzaga would finally fold under the intense pressure of the Mountaineers. But sensing the end could be near, senior Jordan Matthews took and made a huge three-pointer, putting Gonzaga up and giving them a lead they would never relinquish and help send them to the Elite Eight. Some freshman may be able to make that type of shot while feeling no pressure. But vets can also help bigtime in those situation because of their usual nerves of steel.
Another thing that has been very beneficial for the Bulldogs is their ability to play multiple styles of basketball. In year's past, the Bulldogs were stuck in either a fast-paced tempo or a slower tempo that emphasized halfcourt offense. The result would end up in a good regular season but a postseason that would see them get a matchup that did not bode well for them. Well, this season they have a lot of moving parts that are multifaceted. The Bulldogs start the game off with their power lineup, featuring big man Przemek Karnowski battering and bruising opponents into submission. But when he is not in the game, Gonzaga goes to their speed game with Williams-Goss and crew. No matter which style is being played, Gonzaga has enough versatility within their players that they can mix and match styles. The one thing that helps the Bulldogs be even more versatile is the ability of most of their big men to shoot three's at times. With shooters on the floor, that helps spread the floor for Williams-Goss when he drives the lane and gives more space for Karnowski to operate in the paint.
Going forward, Gonzaga isn't the team that people thing will win the tournament. Many are hitching their wagons to North Carolina and their crew of veterans. But with what Gonzaga has on their roster, I would not be so sure to write them off. In fact, they could surprise people even more and finish this thing off holding the title in their hands. We shall see what happens when things start Saturday night.