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Men’s March Madness live results, schedule and updates: Sweet 16 games today and bracket

SALT LAKE CITY — Nolan Hickman tried to tune out the noise. So did Ryan Nembhard. And so did Graham Ike and the rest of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The coaches and administrators can tell you to put down your phone. You can be told to not pay attention until time ends. But this is the social media era, where multiple platforms exist with a 24/7 cycle. Gonzaga is a disciplined and well-run unit. It’s the reason the No. 5 seed Bulldogs are still alive in the NCAA Tournament and have a date with top-seeded Purdue in Friday night’s Sweet 16. But, when you’re dealing with teenagers and young men, at some point, they are going to hear the naysayers.

“They said we were on the bubble and that we weren’t the same Gonzaga that we had been,” Ike said. “We try our best to ignore it, because we know what we have inside the walls. But sometimes, it’s hard to do.”

The Gonzaga we saw last weekend thrived on both ends of the court. The Gonzaga we saw last weekend in the first and second round overwhelmed McNeese State and Kansas with a team that played as five, shot the lights out, proved to be unyielding defensively and generally turned in one of the best collective performances of the weekend.

But that wasn’t Gonzaga in November, or December, or even January. There were times when the Bulldogs looked disjointed. There were times they looked like they lacked the firepower and the overall talent to make their 25th straight NCAA Tournament, let alone mount a run in March. But, on Friday night, the Zags will be in their ninth consecutive Sweet 16, and by the way they are playing, have as good a chance as any at advancing even deeper into the tournament. They will do so because you can’t measure resiliency.

“What’s important is that it took us some time to gel and to mesh as a unit,” Hickman said. “There was always going to be a time where we needed to integrate a lot of new pieces into our roster. We heard a lot of what was being said about us, but we just tried to tune it out and keep playing.”

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