There’s not much Mark Few hasn’t accomplished in his time at Gonzaga. He’s won over 500 games with the program, been the regular season Conference Champions 16 times, and has never failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. But the two biggest holes in his resume before this season were arguably the most important in setting the line between a “good” and “great” coach — Final Fours and National Championships.

Unlikely rise to the top

Gonzaga wasn’t expected to cause much damage in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. They were a small jesuit school in Spokane, Washington that not many knew about, but as a 10-seed, their Cinderella run under Dan Monson all the way to the Elite Eight opened everyone's eyes.

When Monson left for the University of Minnesota the next year, the Bulldogs had to turn to an unproven Few.

It took Gonzaga just three years under Few to break into the top ten of the AP Poll and a further couple to break into the top five. Unfortunately for him, his success in the regular season would not translate well to the postseason.

2012-13 finally looked to be the season that might change all of that. His team won 30 games for the first time in his career and ended the season as the AP No. 1. This gave them a top seed in the tournament and was theoretically supposed to give them the easiest route to the Final Four. However, Wichita State, a No. 9 seed, made their own fairy tale run which included wins over both Gonzaga and the second seed in their region, Ohio State, en route to a Final Four berth.

Few’s first Elite Eight came 16 years into his head coaching career at Gonzaga as a 2-seed after once again winning over 30 games in the regular season and finishing first in the West Coast Conference.

Finally making it happen this season

For the first three-and-a-half months of this season, Gonzaga did not lose a single game.

A strong out-of-conference schedule saw the Bulldogs get wins over Arizona, Iowa State and Florida, and to make that even more impressive, they were all won on neutral floors. After cruising to the WCC Tournament Championship, the Bulldogs earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a first round date with South Dakota State, a team they dispatched easily.

While they only beat Northwestern by six in the end, Gonzaga had full control of the match for most of the game and wasn’t too troubled till the last few minutes. West Virginia, or “press” Virginia, was the first real challenge they had in the tournament and it was handled well. Good perimeter defense at the end of the game forced West Virginia into a couple of contested three-pointers, both of which were missed. A demolition of Xavier in the Elite Eight has now set up a Final Four showdown against unlikely participant, South Carolina.

After their win over Xavier, Few was understandably emotional. 18 long years after his first season with Gonzaga, he has finally reached what many thought was not possible for him after missing out on so many opportunities.

But the “Big Dance”, as Jay Williams noted in a recent interview on ESPN's Sportscenter, is not easy to win, and often, the best team does not end as the winner. In a one-and-done format, it’s difficult to stay focused for every game and requires an immense level of concentration from these college students. Few’s accomplishments would not have been insignificant without a Final Four or a National Championship, after all, it took Syracuse legend Jim Boeheim 27 years to reach the Holy Grail of college basketball. But if Gonzaga is able to find a way to win the National Championship on April 3, Few will have marked down his spot in the history books forever.

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