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Tourney Time: Where UW, WSU, Gonzaga and Seattle U men’s hoops stand entering March

Feb 27, 2022, 7:32 PM
Gonzaga Chet Holmgren Julian Strawther...
Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren and guard Julian Strawther walk off the court on Feb. 5 in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

March starts on Tuesday, which means the NCAA Tournament for men’s college basketball is just weeks away. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will be there, but what about other teams from Washington?

No. 1 Gonzaga falls to No. 23 Saint Mary’s on tough day for Top 10

We’re going to catch you up here with a breakdown of the four local men’s hoops squads we cover at 710Sports.com – in addition to the Zags, we’ll look at a team that has a decent shot at its conference’s automatic bid plus two more whose postseason hopes will be completely tied into their conference tournament.

Let’s start with the No. 1-ranked team in the country – at least until Monday – followed by the UW Huskies, WSU Cougars and Seattle U Redhawks.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Record: 24-3 overall, 13-1 West Coast Conference
Rankings: No. 1 in latest Associated Press and coaches polls; No. 1 KenPom
Key wins: Texas, UCLA, Texas Tech, Saint Mary’s (first meeting)
Losses: Duke, Alabama, Saint Mary’s (second meeting)

The story so far: A year after the Zags’ run at an undefeated season smashed into a brick wall in the NCAA championship game against Baylor – and two years after another title contender was sidelined by the tournament being canceled due to the pandemic – Gonzaga is back just about as strong as ever. That being said, this season hasn’t been without its bumps. First were back-to-back losses to Duke (AP’s current No. 7 team) and Alabama (No. 24), and on Saturday the Zags had a 17-game winning streak snapped by No. 23 Saint Mary’s, who seemed to come up with the blueprint to stopping coach Mark Few’s high-powered offense. The Gaels dictated a slow pace and rarely if ever let Gonzaga get out and run, resulting in a shocking 67-57 upset. Don’t be surprised if Gonzaga sticks at No. 1, though. In an historic Saturday in college hoops, each of the AP’s top six teams and seven of the top nine lost.

March outlook: Barring another loss, Gonzaga will probably still be the No. 1 overall seed as it looks to reach the championship game for the third time in the last five tournaments. The Zags had looked sluggish in recent weeks but now will have over a week off to prepare for the WCC Tournament, where the Zags get a bye to the semifinals on March 7. A rubber match with Saint Mary’s likely awaits them on Tuesday, March 8 in what would be one of the most highly-anticipated WCC games in recent memory.

Who you need to watch from the Zags: The obvious answer is Chet Holmgren, the 7-foot freshman “unicorn” who changes shots in the paint, can run the ball up court in transition, makes pretty passes and even knocks down a few 3-pointers per game. But then there’s his frontcourt mate, Drew Timme, a strong forward who figures to be one of the most hated players in March. The Zags have plenty of other dudes, too, including invaluable point guard Andrew Nembhard and breakout swingman Julian Strawther.

UW Huskies

Record: 14-13 overall, 9-8 Pac-12
Rankings: No. 124 KenPom; sixth in Pac-12
Key wins: Stanford (first meeting), Colorado (second meeting), WSU (second meeting)
Up next: vs. No. 12 UCLA, 8 p.m. Monday

The story so far: The Dawgs have come a long way from where they started this season. Washington scuffled to a 5-5 record before Pac-12 play, but that’s where the Huskies got on track, at one point winning six of seven games. They ran into trouble recently, however, facing three ranked opponents in a row – No. 2 Arizona, No. 16 USC and No. 12 UCLA. Washington lost each of those games plus a fourth to Washington State in Pullman, but the Dawgs rebounded Saturday at home against Wazzu with a 78-70 victory (oddly enough the same score from when they lost to the Cougars just three days before).

March outlook: Even with the high points this season has had, UW would need a very strong finish to the regular season and a great showing in the Pac-12 Tournament to even get an NIT invitation. The Huskies have three games this week and currently have the sixth seed going into the conference tourney that is set to start Wednesday, March 9.

Who you need to watch from the Dawgs: Seattle native Terrell Brown Jr. has been an absolute superstar for UW this season, leading the Pac-12 with 21.5 points per game. The Garfield product and transfer from Arizona doesn’t always get the most help offensively, but the 6-foot-3 guard will put on a show and almost always keep the Dawgs in the game.

WSU Cougars

Record: 15-13 overall, 8-9 Pac-12
Rankings: No. 53 KenPom; seventh in Pac-12
Key wins: Weber St., Colorado (second meeting), Stanford (second meeting), UW (first meeting)
Up next: at Oregon State, 8 p.m. Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle

The story so far: Everything had been going pretty well for WSU until Feb. 10. At that point the Cougars were 14-7 overall and 7-3 in the Pac-12, putting them in good position to challenge for a NCAA tourney spot, but their loss to then-No. 4 Arizona started off a five-game losing streak. And though Wazzu ended it last Wednesday by beating UW, the Huskies evened the score Saturday, meaning WSU has now lost six of its last seven games. Not the best time for a collapse.

March outlook: Washington State had been firmly in the hunt for an NIT invite, something the Cougs could probably still solidify with wins in their final three Pac-12 games – two against Oregon State (3-24 overall, 1-16 Pac-12) and one against Oregon (18-11, 11-7).

Who you need to watch from the Cougs: WSU has benefited from balance on offense with six players averaging at least 7 points per game. Three guards – Michael Flowers, Tyrell Roberts and Noah Williams – all average double-digit scoring, while 6-10 forward Efe Abogidi adds 7.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Seattle U Redhawks

Record: 22-8 overall, 13-4 WAC
Rankings: No. 129 KenPom; second in WAC
Key wins: Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston
Up next: vs. Chicago State, 1 p.m. March 5

The story so far: The season could not have started any rockier for the Redhawks as Jim Hayford was let go as head coach just before the season. That tribulation may have galvanized the team under interim head coach Chris Victor, however, as Seattle U has maybe its best shot at making the NCAA Tournament since the program rejoined the Division I level in 2008. That’s not to say it’s a great shot, but we’ll get to that. Seattle U has had winning streaks of six games, then nine games, then four games, but the fact that the Redhawks fell at home last week to New Mexico State in a battle for the conference lead certainly hurt.

March outlook: Playing in a weak conference and with no real standout wins, Seattle U isn’t going to get any love from the NCAA Tournament committee. It’s completely up to the Redhawks to win the WAC Tournament, which is set for March 8-12 in Las Vegas, to get a bid to the dance.

Who you need to watch from the Redhawks: Darrion Trammell, an electric 5-10 guard, leads three Seattle U players averaging 12 points or more with 16.5 per game, which is fifth in the WAC. He also leads the team with 5.2 assists and 2.6 steals per game, and he adds 3.7 boards, as well. Cameron Tyson, a 6-2 guard from Bothell, is chipping in 14.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

NCAA Tournament info

Selection Sunday is set for Sunday, March 13, when the full 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed on CBS at 3 p.m.

The tournament itself will start with the First Four round on March 15-16. For more details, click here.

Saturday: Big second half lifts UW Huskies past WSU Cougars 78-70

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Tourney Time: Where UW, WSU, Gonzaga and Seattle U men’s hoops stand entering March