AZ ties: 5 connections that Final Four teams, players and coaches have to Arizona

Posted at 2:10 PM, Mar 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-29 21:13:23-04

The 2017 Final Four in Glendale is set, and the participants -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Gonzaga and Oregon -- have descended upon the Valley.

Here's a look at five connections that the teams, players and coaches in this year's Final Four have to the Valley and the state of Arizona.

1. Casey comes home

This weekend will be a homecoming for Oregon junior guard Casey Benson, who starred at Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe and was an All-Arizona selection in each of his last two seasons at CDS.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder had a dozen collegiate offers out of high school but picked Oregon over hometown Arizona State and fellow Final Four participant Gonzaga. He's averaging 4.9 points per game this season and is one of just five Ducks to play in all 38 of Oregon's games in 2016-17.

Benson was a senior at Corona when current CDS senior Alex Barcello, who has committed to play at Arizona next season, was a freshman.

2. Dorsey ducks Arizona for Oregon

Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey has been unstoppable during postseason play, as he's scored over 20 points in each of his last seven games. But the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder was originally Tucson-bound.

Dorsey, a former 5-star guard out of Pasadena, California, committed to play for coach Sean Miller and Arizona in early 2014, but he backed out of his verbal commitment five months later. In a letter, Dorsey said he had nothing but respect for Miller and the Wildcat program but added, "in hindsight, I rushed my college choice and did not provide myself with the greatest opportunity to explore and thoroughly investigate all my possible college options."

Dorsey committed to Oregon early the following year -- and although the Wildcats beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game in early March, Dorsey's Ducks got the last laugh by making the trip to Glendale that was denied to Miller and Arizona.

3. Speaking of the Wildcats...

Arizona only lost five games all season, but two of those losses were to teams that advanced to the Final Four. Dorsey and the Ducks handed Arizona its most lopsided loss of the year, 85-58 in Eugene on Feb. 4. Two months earlier, Gonzaga knocked off UA in Los Angeles -- although the Wildcats were missing leading scorer Allonzo Trier, who was suspended at the time.

In fact, all five of Arizona's defeats were to teams that advanced at least to the Sweet 16. At least the Wildcats can say they were beaten by the best.

4. Gonzaga is no stranger to the Valley

The Bulldogs are in the Final Four for the first time ever, but this is hardly their first visit to Phoenix.

In December 2008, then-No. 4 Gonzaga lost to Arizona 69-64 in a game played at US Airways Center (now Talking Stick Resort Arena) in Phoenix. A decade earlier, the Zags were painfully close to making their first Final Four appearance, as they fell 67-62 to Connecticut in a 1999 Elite Eight game that was also played at the Suns' arena. The Zags were beaten by the champs, as UConn went on to defeat Duke in the national championship game a week later.

5. Williams and Hurley reunited (sort of)

Duke defeated Kansas 72-65 in the 1991 NCAA national championship game. Standout point guard Bobby Hurley contributed 12 points and nine assists to lead Duke past the Jayhawks, who were coached by Roy Williams.

Williams is now the head coach at North Carolina, and on Saturday, his Tar Heels will take the court in a Final Four game hosted by Arizona State, where Hurley now happens to be the men's basketball coach. Superstitious UNC fans can't be too excited about this development.

Incidentally, ASU will play Kansas each of the next two seasons -- at Kansas in the 2017-18 season, and in Tempe the following year.