SPOKANE — Nigel Williams-Goss hears the doubts being voiced about top-ranked Gonzaga and he dismisses them.
The leading scorer for the only undefeated team remaining in Division I firmly believes this year’s Bulldogs can make their first trip to the Final Four.
“I want it bad, I want the national championship bad, to kind of put to rest all the naysayers,” Williams-Goss said.
Williams-Goss, a junior in his first season in Spokane after transferring from Washington, has yet to lose in a Gonzaga uniform. The Zags are 26-0 so far and seem unlikely to lose again during the regular season.
However, despite 18 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga has never gotten beyond the Elite Eight. Critics say that’s proof the Bulldogs are overrated because they play in the relatively weak West Coast Conference.
Williams-Goss rejects such notions, and sees parallels between him and his team.
“I just feel a lot of times I’ve been overlooked my entire life and I’ve had to work for everything I’ve gotten,” he said. “I feel like the worker’s mentality, coming from a small city, small school in Spokane.”
“We both pride ourselves on just being nitty and gritty and putting the work in and letting the results speak for itself,” Williams-Goss said.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard grew up in suburban Portland, but he played his high school basketball at powerhouse Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., where he won two national titles.
He played his first two seasons at Washington, where he made the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team and was the team’s leading scorer as a sophomore.
But he was unhappy with the direction of the slumping program, and decided to leave. Many assumed he would try for a job in the NBA.
There was much surprise, and some hurt feelings, when he chose to transfer across the state to rival Gonzaga and sit out a year under NCAA rules.
Williams-Goss is also an excellent student who learned Mandarin in the fifth grade and is a regional All-Academic selection. He carries a 3.84 grade-point average in psychology.
But he has been doing some of his best work on the basketball court this year.
Williams-Goss is averaging 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and more than four assists per game, part of a balanced attack that has seven players scoring at least eight points per game. He is a finalist for both the Wooden and Naismith awards.
His best performance may have been at BYU on Feb. 2 when he scored 33 points in an 85-75 win. Time and again he scored when BYU was threatening to take the lead.
“The kid’s just a winner. He’s just a flat-out winner,” coach Mark Few said. “Obviously, this is when you need him, on a big stage in a really, really tough environment when we’re hitting a bunch of adversity.”
The Zags have four regular-season games remaining, beginning with Thursday’s home game against San Francisco, in their quest to become the first team to go undefeated in the regular season since Kentucky in 2015.
But even if they go 30-0 in the regular season, win the WCC tournament and enter the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed, some will expect the Zags to make an early exit.
Williams-Goss got an earful of that at Loyola Marymount last Thursday, a 90-60 Gonzaga win.
Loyola Marymount fans reminded the Zags that the 2013 team that reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 was ousted in the NCAAs in the Round of 32 by Wichita State.
“That’s all you hear, even out here (LMU) fans were chanting, ‘Round of 32,”‘ Williams-Goss said. “You’ve got to get over the hump. I’d love to be part of the group to do it.”