March 15, 2009
SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University men's basketball team (26-5) was awarded the fourth seed in the Portland/South Regional as the NCAA announced pairings for this season's NCAA Tournament Sunday.
The Bulldogs will face the No. 13 seed University of Akron Thursday at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Thursday's meeting between the Zags and the Zips will be the first time the two schools have met on the basketball court.
Akron earned the Mid-American Conference (MAC) automatic bid after finishing with a 23-12 overall mark and a 10-6 record in conference. The fifth seed in the MAC Tournament, the Zips defeated the third seeded University of Buffalo 65-53 to win their first-ever Tournament title and secured their automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the program's Division I era. UA's only other appearance in the Big Dance came in 1986 when Bob Huggins was the coach.
This season marks Gonzaga's 11-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its 12th overall appearance. The Zags earned the West Coast Conference regular season title, finishing with a perfect 14-0 record, and then won the WCC Tournament title for the ninth time in 11 years, defeating Saint Mary's College, 83-58, in the championship game.
This season also marks the first time in program history that the Zags have been awarded a four seed in the field of 65 teams. It is also the highest seeding in three years for Gonzaga, having earned a seven and 10 seed the past two seasons, respectively. It also marks Gonzaga's first tournament appearance in Portland.
The winner of the Gonzaga/Akron game will play the winner of the University of Illinois/Western Kentucky University game Saturday. Illinois (24-9) is seeded No. 5 after receiving an at-large bid from the Big Ten Conference. Western Kentucky (24-8) is seeded No. 12 after winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
If the Zags advance out of their pod, they will move on to the South Regional in Memphis, Tenn. Their possible opponents would be No. 1 seed University of North Carolina (28-4), No. 8 seed LSU (26-7), No. 9 Butler University (26-5) or No. 16 seed Radford University (21-11). UNC faces Radford and LSU plays Butler in the first rounds of the Greensboro, N.C. pod.
Information regarding NCAA Tournament tickets will be released later this evening.