Previewing the NCAA Tournament second-round games in Salt Lake City

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 10:54 p.m. MDT

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Southern Next » 1 of 4 « Prev
by Loren Jorgensen
Deseret News

Getting to the NCAA Tournament is commonplace for Gonzaga these days. The Bulldogs, in fact, have been to "The Big Dance" 15 straight years now. No big deal.

But being a No. 1 seed? That's a biggie.

Sunday marked a first for arguably the most consistent basketball program in the western United States the past two decades. The Zags, 31-2 and riding a 14-game winning streak, are the No. 1 seed in the West Regional and will face Southern University (23-9) on Thursday at EnergySolutions Arena.

"It's an honor (to get a No.1 seed)," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told ESPN Sunday night. "There were a bunch of teams that deserved it. Whether or not we deserved it over them, I don't know. I was honored just to be in the conversation."

Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 in the national polls, but there was some question as to if it would gain a No. 1 seed since it is often criticized for its weak strength of schedule playing in the West Coast Conference. But the Bulldogs have made noise over the years in the NCAAs. They also played — and beat — a number of Big 12 teams this preseason in Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor. Plus they dominated the WCC, which has at least a few tough outs in rivals like Saint Mary's and BYU.

"Gonzaga gets everybody's best shot when they show up," selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said during the CBS selection show. "In our judgment that's a very complete and very strong basketball team, and in our collective estimation they deserve to be on that 1 line."

Gonzaga is led by center Kelly Olynyk (17.5 ppg) and power forward Elias Harris (14.9 ppg).

Southern, meanwhile, is just happy it doesn't have to play on Tuesday in a first-round play-in game.

"In our (Southwest Athletic) conference sometimes, out RPI is not as high and you get penalized," Southern coach Roman Banks told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. "But I think (the NCAA selection committee) looked at our body of work. We bypassed the play-in game. That's a testament to these guys going out on the road and playing."

The Jaguars are led by guards Derick Beltran (15.9 ppg) and Malcolm Miller (15.8 ppg).

GONZAGA (31-2) vs. SOUTHERN (23-9)

Thursday, approx. 2:10 p.m. MT, TBS

The Bulldogs: In a season of firsts, the Zags rose to the top spot in the polls following a Feb. 8 win over BYU in the Marriott Center. . . Center Kelly Olynyk is the top scorer (17.5 ppg), forward Elias Harris leads the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and point guard Kevin Pangos is a good all-around floor general (11.5 ppg,, 3.2 apg) . . .The only two teams to beat the Bulldogs this season were Illinois and Butler. . . . Impressive wins include victories over West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor.

The Jaguars: A 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed, but Southern hopes to change that. Malcolm Miller is one of the nation's top 3-point shooters, making 46 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. . . . This is Southern's first NCAA appearance since 2006. The Jags are 1-7 all time in the NCAAs . . . Southern, located in Baton Rouge, La.. beat Texas A&M in non-league action. . . . The Jags went 15-3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference just two years after finished last in that league.

Utah connection: Gonzaga backup guard David Stockton literally spent hundreds of hours at EnergySolutions Arena as a youngster. He is the son of Jazz legend John Stockton. . . . Most know that the Zags beat BYU both times the WCC teams played this season — in blowout fashion in Spokane and in a nail-biter in Provo. But the Bulldogs also have a win over Southern Utah, 103-65, in November.
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