The No. 11-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs are officially on Cinderella alert.
After putting the hurt on the No. 6-seeded Seton Hall Pirates in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Gonzaga buried the No. 3-seeded Utah Utes, 82-59, on Saturday evening at Pepsi Center in Denver to slide into the Sweet 16 in style.
ESPN Stats & Info put the win into context:
The slipper still fits!— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2016
Gonzaga's 23-pt win ties 3rd-largest win by team seeded 11th or lower since 1985 expansion pic.twitter.com/FgcfoIvvM8
The first double-digit seed to qualify for a regional semifinal this year, the Bulldogs will move on to Chicago and face the winner of Sunday's game between the No. 10-seeded Syracuse Orange and No. 15-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, meaning a double-digit seed will be in the Elite Eight next weekend.
The one-two punch of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis did the heavy lifting for Gonzaga with 17 and 19 points, respectively. Sabonis held down the interior, and Wiltjer played the role of face-up 4, as NCAA March Madness documented:
In a battle of big men, Gonzaga earned the edge as Utah center Jakob Poeltl (five points, four rebounds) failed to establish a rhythm. After picking up his second foul with less than seven minutes remaining in the first half, Poeltl sat for the remainder of the frame before returning to start the second stanza.
However, Poeltl regularly appeared winded and ill-equipped to duke it out with Sabonis, who led all Bulldogs players with 10 rebounds.
And while the bigs were rightly at the center of attention Saturday night, Gonzaga's guard play proved to be the difference. If the Bulldogs sustain it moving forward, they could threaten to represent the Midwest Region in the Final Four.
Eric McClellan was superb with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and his transition basket toward the start of the second half was a statement after Gonzaga entered halftime up by 15 points.
Josh Perkins (10 points) and Silas Melson (five points) also contributed, which caused CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie to reflect on the strides many in the Zags backcourt have made:
Gonzaga’s guards have definitely figured some things out over the last month. Especially Silas Melson in these last two games.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 20, 2016
Gonzaga's offense picked its spots at will en route to shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from three-point range. Its defense held Utah to 42.3 percent shooting as a team.
As crazy as it may sound, Gonzaga may be the hottest team in the tournament field with the second weekend looming, as Yahoo Sports' Brad Evans noted:
Most impressive team of the tournament through three days: Gonzaga. No question. Dismantled Seton Hall. Now spanking Utah. #MarchMadness— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) March 20, 2016
The Bulldogs will now carry that momentum into Chicago, where they should be favored regardless of who emerges victorious in Sunday's round-of-32 showdown between Syracuse and Middle Tennessee.
With a dominant low-post threat in Sabonis, a stretch 4 in Wiltjer and a group of talented guards who can score from all over the floor and provide active hands on defense, Gonzaga is in prime position to continue its run.
NCAA March Madness on Twitter captured Gonzaga's enthusiastic locker room celebration after the final buzzer sounded:
According to KREM 2 News, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak admitted Gonzaga was the superior team Saturday night in Denver:
Utah Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak,"The best team won tonight."— KREM 2 NEWS (@KREM2) March 20, 2016
Krystkowiak, "(Domantas) Sabonis got the best of Jakob Poeltl in this situation."— KREM 2 NEWS (@KREM2) March 20, 2016
"It was just a tremendous effort by out guys in a short turnaround situation," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said, per KREM 2 News.
"We have played as well as we have on the biggest stage of the year," Few added, according to KREM.
"I would never put a number on (Gonzaga)," Krystkowiak said, per KREM. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were in the Final Four."
Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.