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Gonzaga steamed about NCAA seeding

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2002

SPOKANE, Wash. -- A No. 6 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament means Gonzaga is still struggling for respect, forward Zach Gourde says.

It also means the Bulldogs will have something to prove when they take on 11th-seeded Wyoming on Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M.

''We might as well have been the 11th seed,'' Gourde said. ''We didn't get any protection from the (selection) committee and so we'll just have to knock some people off like we have before.''

''I thought we'd finally started to be respected on a national level, but apparently not,'' Gourde added.

Gonzaga, unranked at the beginning of the season, remained at No. 6 on Monday in the final Associated Press college basketball poll of the season.

Gonzaga (29-3) had double-digit seeds in the NCAAs the past three years, but none of those teams was ranked sixth in the national polls and had so many quality wins over good opponents. Many of Gonzaga's games were televised and national attention was glowing. Their RPI was a respectable 21 and all three teams that beat the Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA tournament, meaning there were no so-called ''bad losses.''

Their reward is a low seed against a dangerous opponent in a location that is difficult for Gonzaga's many traveling fans to reach, in a West Region that is overloaded with tough teams.

Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament has a Top 10 team been seeded so low.

''It's not an easy team to seed,'' was the only explanation from Lee Fowler, chair of the Division 1 men's basketball committee.

Gonzaga and 1,000 of its biggest fans jammed into a hotel ballroom as the pairings were announced Sunday afternoon.

''It's just like it is every year,'' forward Cory Violette said. ''We got the shaft and now we're going to go in there and fix it.''

''They say they're not giving big conferences any favors,'' guard Dan Dickau said. ''Then you look at it, and, yeah, they are.''

Disappointment with the seed is one likely reason the team failed on Monday to sell out its 450-ticket allotment to the first game.

Here are key points heading into Thursday's game against Mountain West Conference regular season champion and 11th seed Wyoming (21-8):

--Gonzaga will be the higher-ranked team in the first round for the first time in its history.

--Gonzaga takes a 14-game winning streak, which ties a school record, into its opening game. Its 29 wins are a school record, too.

''You can't win many more than 29 games,'' Gourde said. ''Do they want us to win them all next year?''

--Wyoming is based in high-altitude Laramie, and plays in high-altitude Albuquerque each year. On the other hand, Gonzaga played in Albuquerque this season and beat New Mexico in overtime.

''Spokane is somewhat at elevation as well,'' Dickau noted, although at about 2,000 feet Spokane is still 3,200 feet less than Albuquerque.

--In the 2000 NCAA tournament, Gonzaga lost to Purdue in the round of 16 in Albuquerque.

--If they beat Wyoming, the Bulldogs will likely face No. 7 Arizona, the Pac-10 tournament champion, which plays UC-Santa Barbara. Looming in the West bracket are No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 5 Cincinnati and No. 14 Ohio State, the Big 10 tournament champion.

--The Bulldogs' low seed is most likely the result of their playing in the lightly regarded West Coast Conference. They shared the regular-season title with Pepperdine, which was seeded No. 10. Besides the Waves, the other teams Gonzaga lost to this season -- Illinois (No. 4 seed) and Marquette (No. 5) -- made the tournament.

--Gonzaga, defending national champion Duke and Michigan State are the only teams to advance to at least the round of 16 the past three seasons.

The low seeding may have a silver lining. Any chance Gonzaga might have tightened up in the unfamiliar role of heavy favorite is likely gone.

''If anything, it probably helps as far as getting our guys to play with a chip on their shoulders,'' coach Mark Few said.



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