COLLEGE HOOPS

Gonzaga earns No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament

Mar 12, 2017, 3:09 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2017, 2:44 pm

Gonzaga...

Gonzaga earned its 18th straight trip to the NCAA tournament after winning another WCC title. (AP)

(AP)

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team earned a No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament and will be heading to Salt Lake City to face South Dakota State on Thursday.

On Selection Sunday, the Bulldogs found out they received the top seed in the West Region and will play a SDSU squad that finished just 18-16 on the season but won the Summit League tournament title. If Gonzaga beats the 16th-seeded Jackrabbits, it will face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup between Northwestern and Vanderbilt. Northwestern has an interesting story because this is its first-ever trip to the Big Dance. The Big Ten school finished the season with a 23-11 record, while Vanderbilt went 19-15 and finished seventh in the SEC.

Zach Collins: Bulldogs’ success has never been about 1 player

Gonzaga finished the regular season with a 32-1 record, capped on March 7 by a 74-56 win over rival St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference championship game. The win marked the school’s fifth straight WCC tournament title.

Villanova, Kansas and North Carolina earned the other three No. 1 seeds.

The Bulldogs were ranked first in the Associated Press poll for a month during the regular season before BYU snapped the team’s 29-game win streak on Feb. 26. They finished second in the final AP poll. Despite having the nation’s best record, there has been a national debate over whether the Zags deserved a No. 1 placement over major-conference powerhouses Arizona and Duke. Gonzaga had a better record than both and defeated Arizona in December, but there were lingering questions about the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule. The Wildcats received the No. 2 seed in the West, which means there could be a rematch between the teams in the Elite 8.

Gonzaga has never missed an NCAA tournament under head coach Mark Few. It advanced to the Sweet 16 last season as a No. 11 seed. The program earned its only other No. 1 seed in the 2012-13 season but was upset in the second round. Two years ago, the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite 8 as a second-seed.

The Bulldogs have used a balanced attack to dominate their competition, led by Wooden Award finalist sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who led the team in points (16.9) and assists (4.8) per game.

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