HOUSTON - Gonzaga and coach Mark Few have been a constant presence in the NCAA tournament, even if the lovable Zags rarely get this deep into March Madness.
The Bulldogs were a No. 1 seed two years ago, when they got upset in the second round. And who can forget floppy-haired, big-scoring Adam Morrison nearly a decade ago - yep, back in 2006, when the trendy pick blew an early 17-point lead in a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA.
Now they are a win away from their first Final Four. To get there, Gonzaga will have to get by Duke and Coach K's top-seeded Blue Devils (32-4) in Sunday's South Regional final.
"Probably the highest compliment I could pay him is literally everything we've tried to do at Gonzaga, we always ask, 'What did Duke do here?' " Few said Saturday.
Duke is in its 20th regional final, the 14th under Mike Krzyzewski for the most by any active coach. The freshmen trio of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones has gotten Duke within a win of its 16th Final Four.
This is the 17th consecutive NCAA trip for the Bulldogs (35-2), but their first regional final since 1999 - back when they were still considered a Cinderella story, an image shed by their impressive consistency. That improbable advance as a No. 10 seed started their NCAA run, when Few was still an assistant the year before becoming the head coach at Gonzaga.
"We wanted to be a team that got [to the Elite Eight] as well, just make a statement that we're one of the top programs in the country," senior guard Kevin Pangos said. "It's a great feeling to be here, but we're not satisfied. We really want to make that next step."
When they step on the court at NRG Stadium, the tough-shooting venue that is usually the home of the NFL's Houston Texans, it will be only the third-ever meeting between the schools. Duke won regular-season games in December 2006 and December 2009, both played at Madison Square Garden.
Gonzaga's starting five includes three seniors with more than 130 college games each, and two juniors. The Bulldogs have set a school record for wins. Their only losses were in overtime in December at Arizona, another Elite Eight team, and by three points to BYU long after they had wrapped up another West Coast Conference title.
"Gonzaga's not just a great team, but a great program. Mark's built a great, great program there," Krzyzewski said, adding that Kentucky's pursuit of an undefeated season has overshadowed what teams such as the Bulldogs have accomplished this season.