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Washington March Madness

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | March 18, 2024 4:18 PM

MOSES LAKE — Four regional college basketball teams saw their names get called on Selection Sunday, with two teams competing in the men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments. 

The Gonzaga and Washington State men’s teams both qualified for the men’s tournament, while the Eastern Washington and Gonzaga women’s teams both reached the women’s tournament.

Read along for a look at first-round matchups for each team.

Eastern Washington

Women

The Eagles (29-5) are back in the women’s NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987, earning a No. 14 seed after winning the Big Sky Conference Tournament 73-64 over Northern Arizona. Led by Moses Lake High School alumna Jamie Loera, who was named the Big Sky regular season and tournament MVP, the Eagles will take on No. 3 seed Oregon State in the first round of the tournament. 

OSU (24-7) opened the Pac-12 Tournament with an 85-79 win over Colorado in the quarterfinals, losing 66-57 in the semifinals to Stanford after leading at halftime. Six of the Beavers’ seven losses came to fellow NCAA Tournament-qualifying teams; Stanford (three times), USC (twice) and UCLA.

Eastern brings a 13-game win streak into the tournament, surpassing the previous longest streak of 10 games set earlier this season. 

The Eagles travel to Corvallis, Oregon for a 5 p.m. tip-off on Friday. The winner goes on to face the winner of Friday’s game between No. 6 Nebraska and No. 11 Texas A&M on Sunday.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Men

The Bulldogs (25-7) received a No. 5 seed in this season’s NCAA men’s tournament, setting up a first-round matchup against No. 12 McNeese State. The Cowboys (30-3) are riding an 11-game win streak, with their most recent win being a 92-76 defeat of Nicholls in the Southland Tournament title game; McNeese State is one of four teams in the country with 30 wins this season, joining No. 1 seeds in UConn (31-3) and Houston (30-4), as well as No. 12 seed James Madison (31-3).

McNeese State holds the nation’s highest scoring margin this season, outscoring teams by 18.9 points per game and holding top-10 marks in three-point percentage (38.8%), steals per game (10.4), points allowed per game (61.5) and opponent field goal percentage (20.6%). 

The Cowboys struggle at the free throw line; McNeese State converts just 69.1% of its attempts at the charity stripe, which ranks at No. 296 in Division I.

This is Gonzaga’s 26th straight appearance in the men’s NCAA Tournament, holding a 44-25 record in the tournament over that span. The Bulldogs have reached the Sweet 16 for eight straight seasons.

Tip-off between the Bulldogs and Cowboys is at 4:25 p.m. Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah. The winner advances to play the winner of No. 4 Kansas/No. 13 Samford on Saturday.

Women

Gonzaga (30-3) reached the women’s NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season under Head Coach Lisa Fortier, earning a No. 4 seed on Selection Sunday — the highest mark in program history. The Zags will play No. 13 UC Irvine (23-8) in the first round Saturday.

The Anteaters allow just 55 points per game, which is the 11th-lowest mark in the country; they’ll need a strong defensive effort to slow down the Bulldog offense, which has averaged 81.2 points per game entering the tournament — the 11th most in the country.

UCI brings a six-game win streak into the big dance, having beaten UC Davis 53-39 in the Big West Tournament championship game Saturday; the 20th time the Anteaters have held an opponent to under 60 points in a game this season. Gonzaga’s 24-game win streak came to an end in the West Coach Conference Tournament championship game, losing 67-66 to the Portland Pilots. 

Tip-off between Gonzaga and UCI is at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Spokane; the Bulldogs are hosting the first two rounds, with the winner of Saturday’s game going on to face the winner of No. 5 Utah/No. 12 North Dakota State on Monday.

Washington State

Men

WSU will make its seventh appearance in the men’s NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season in second place in the Pac-12, amassing a 24-9 record and earning a No. 7 seed in the East Region.

The Cougars face No. 10 seed Drake in the first round of the tournament; the Bulldogs (28-6) won 10 of their last 11 games before entering the tournament, including an 84-80 win over Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game. 

Drake has made the tournament in three of the past four seasons, but hasn’t reached the second round in each of those appearances; last year as a No. 12 seed, the Bulldogs lost 63-56 to No. 5 Miami. Leading scorer Tucker DeVries, who averages 21.8 points per game this season, went one-of-13 from the field and one-of-11 from three in last year’s tournament game against the Hurricanes. 

The last time the Cougars reached the NCAA Tournament was in 2008 when they earned a No. 4 seed and reached the Sweet 16, defeating No. 13 Winthrop and No. 5 Notre Dame in the process.

Tip-off between the Cougars and Bulldogs is at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb. The winner will play the winner of No. 2 Iowa State/No. 15 South Dakota State on Saturday.

    The Gonzaga men’s basketball team has made the Sweet 16 in eight consecutive seasons entering the 2024 men’s NCAA Tournament.
 
 
    Eastern Washington’s women’s basketball team is back in the women’s NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987, facing off against No. 3 Oregon State in the first round.