The Gonzaga Bulldogs didn't look like a No. 1 seed for the entirety of their round of 64 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits.
The story was the same Saturday.
Matched up against the eighth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats with a Sweet 16 berth on the line, the Bulldogs just barely held on to defeat the Big Ten darlings and capture a 79-73 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.
Although the Wildcats trailed by 18 points at halftime, they went on a 23-8 run in the second half and trimmed the deficit to five with 5:31 remaining before tensions ran high following a controversial non-call on a late Gonzaga block:
However, emotional outbursts weren't limited to Northwestern's coaching staff:
Ultimately, though, the Wildcats didn't have enough offense to overcome their dismal first-half performance, which was laid out by ESPN Stats & Info:
All told, Northwestern shot 40.9 percent from the field and 8-of-24 from three as their first trip to the NCAA tournament came to a close.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs followed Nigel Williams-Goss' lead in the scoring column.
The junior guard paced Gonzaga with 20 points (6-of-19 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists, and he made an impact in several key areas during Gonzaga's scalding start, according to Draft Express' Mike Schmitz:
In the supplementary scoring department, Jordan Mathews provided welcome reinforcements out of the backcourt to the tune of 14 points, seven boards and three steals.
But despite the solid backcourt play, the Bulldogs were not always at their most efficient.
The West Region's No. 1 seed shot 44.1 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from three, marks that likely won't cut it against the West Virginia Mountaineers' press-heavy attack.
The fourth-seeded Mountaineers—who defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 83-71 Saturday afternoon—wield one of the nation's most unique and aggressive defensive schemes, and it could pose problems for a Bulldogs offense that likes to set up its sets quickly by pushing tempo.
If the Bulldogs are going to solve the Mountaineers' fifth-ranked defense and shift things away from a less frenetic pace, the interior play of Zach Collins (14 points, five rebounds), Przemek Karnowski (nine points, four rebounds) and Killian Tillie (eight points, four rebounds) will be key, as Athlon Sports' Bryan Fischer noted:
Those maulers have the ability to facilitate easy buckets on one end and prevent them on the other, and their size should give the likes of Nathan Adrian and Elijah Macon trouble on the glass.
And with a handful of days to prepare, the Bulldogs should be committed to fine-tuning their game following two relatively uninspiring performances to open the Big Dance.
After the loss, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins reflected on the disappointing result, as March Madness TV documented:
On the officiating front, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn relayed a statement from the NCAA that confirmed referees should have called Gonzaga for goaltending:
"Thank you for the statement, appreciate it," Collins said after it was read aloud at his postgame press conference, per Fischer. "Should have been a three point game."
Gonzaga, meanwhile, reveled in the win with a raucous postgame celebration, as shown by NCAA March Madness on Twitter:
At the podium, Bulldogs head coach Mark Few had nothing but praise for Collins and the Wildcats.
"They better step up and keep him [Collins] around because he's really, really good," he said, per CBS 5's Tim Ring.