No. 22 WSU, No. 17 Gonzaga get their NCAA Tournament draws

Mar 17, 2024, 3:36 PM | Updated: Mar 18, 2024, 10:28 am

WSU NCAA Myles Rice Cougars...

Myles Rice of the WSU Cougars reacts after a basket against Stanford on March 14, 2024. (David Becker/Getty Images)

(David Becker/Getty Images)

For the first time in 16 years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will be joined in the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament by the WSU Cougars, their neighbors from just down U.S. Route 195.

After losing season to cancer, Myles Rice helps lead WSU hoops resurgence

The full 68-team bracket was announced Sunday afternoon, and as expected, the Zags are in for a 25th straight year, while WSU has played its way into the madness to end a drought dating back to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2008. Neither team was able to land a game in Spokane, however, missing out on an opportunity for a rare home-court advantage. Oddly enough, Gonzaga rival Saint Mary’s was one of the teams to get a spot in the Spokane Arena.

One team who will get that advantage, however, are the 14th-ranked Gonzaga women, who are a No. 4 seed for the first time and will host No. 13 seed UC Irvine on campus at the McCarthey Athletic Center in the first round at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The Big Sky champion EWU Eagles are also in the women’s bracket as a No. 14 seed and will open at third-seeded Oregon State at 5 p.m. Friday.

Here’s a look at the draws for both the Gonzaga and Wazzu men as well as a few more details on the two teams.

No. 17 Gonzaga Bulldogs in NCAA Tournament

Seed: 5
Region: Midwest
Opening game: Thursday vs. No. 12 McNeese State, 4:25 p.m. (Salt Lake City)
Records: Gonzaga 25-7; McNeese State 30-3

What to know: The Zags were in unfamiliar territory for much of the season as a potential bubble team, but they went on a run of 14 wins in 15 games to make their way back into the AP top 25 poll and lock up an at-large bid. That turned out to be necessary as Gonzaga fell to No. 21 Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship last Tuesday.

Big man Graham Ike leads the team in both scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounds (7.2), while forward Anton Watson (14.4 points, 7.1 rebounds), point guard Ryan Nembhard (12.9 points, 6.7 assists) and shooting guard Nolan Hickman (13.9 points) all play key roles.

McNeese State got a lot of attention after the first round matchup was announced as a potential Cinderella, as the Cowboys lost just once since November on their way to the regular season and conference championships from the Southland Conference.

See the full tournament bracket

No. 22 WSU Cougars in NCAA Tournament

Seed: 7
Region: East
Opening game: Thursday vs. No. 10 Drake, 7:05 p.m. (Omaha, Neb.)
Records: WSU 24-9; Drake 29-5
Radio broadcast: Seattle Sports

What to know: Wazzu was a surprise in the Pac-12, where the Cougs shook off an exodus of transfers and gelled to challenge for the regular season conference title. Wins both at home and on the road over Arizona (currently ranked No. 6 in the country) cemented Washington State as a team to watch in March, and the Cougars made it into the month already a sure thing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since former coach Tony Bennett left for Virginia in 2009.

Size is the name of the game for Kyle Smith’s WSU squad, which boasts a rotation of players all checking in at 6 foot 3 or taller. Forward Isaac Jones leads the team with 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, and guard Myles Rice (15.1 points, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals) has been huge after missing last season due to treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Forwards Jaylen Wells (12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Andrej Jakimovski (10 points, 5.5 rebounds) are also solid contributors for WSU.

Drake beat Indiana State last weekend for the Missouri Valley Tournament title, and WSU’s defense will certainly be focused on Bulldogs guard Tucker DeVries, who averages 21.8 points per game.

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