Gonzaga and Eastern Washington, the Evergreen State’s two entries in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (bracket here), are receiving plenty of love in print and on the air from around the country.
Myron Metcalf of ESPN.com predicts Gonzaga will reach the championship game in Indianapolis before losing to Kentucky. The Wildcats, 34-0 and ranked No. 1 all season, are overwhelming favorites to win the title.
Metcalf bases his confidence in the seventh-ranked Bulldogs (33-2) in part on coach Mark Few having “the toughest defensive crew” in Few’s 16 years as head coach.
Raphelle Johnson of NBCSports.com ranks Gonzaga last among eight teams he believes have a shot at the title. Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com says the Bulldogs have the toughest draw of any No. 2 seed, with fourth-ranked Duke looming as a potential Elite Eight opponent.
Eastern Washington, a 13 seed, is a popular upset pick against No. 4 seed Georgetown.
Sam Vecenie of CBSSports.com lists the Eagles as the third-most likely team to score an upset in the second round (the “play-in” first-round games are held Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, OH.). Rob Dauster of NBCSports.com said the Eagles are “certainly capable” of beating Georgetown, and Scott Van Pelt of ESPN.com said Eastern represents a “scary” opening opponent for the Hoyas.
Georgetown (21-10) moved up from 23rd to 22nd in Monday’s new Associated Press Top 25, but the Hoyas have struggled in the NCAA tournament in recent years. Many wonder if Georgetown was seeded too high.
“How they got a 4 seed is beyond me,” ESPN’s Dan Dockich said.
The Washington Post said Georgetown “shockingly” received a 4 seed. The Washington Post termed the seed “head-scratching.”
Vecenie is concerned about Eastern’s lack of size against Georgetown, but he likes the fact that the Eagles (26-8) have quality 3-point gunners like national scoring leader Tyler Harvey.
“He’s knocking down 43 percent of his 3’s,” Vecenie wrote, “and the ability to shoot the 3 is a massive weapon games like this. Also, he’s not alone on the floor. Venky Jois is one of the most efficient big men in the country.”
Eastern and Georgetown square off Thursday at Portland’s Moda Center (approx. 7 p.m., truTV). Gonzaga opens against No. 15 seed North Dakota State (23-9) Friday at Seattle’s KeyArena (approx.. 7 p.m., TBS).
Former Gonzaga assistant coach Leon Rice, a close friend of Few, has guided Boise State (25-8) into the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Last year, Rice was a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Washington State, his alma mater . . . Bill Grier, another close friend who assisted Few at Gonzaga, was fired after eight seasons as head coach at San Diego. The Toreros never played in the NCAA tournament after Grier’s first year (2007-08). Former Eastern Washington coach Mike Burns and ex-Gonzaga player Kyle Bankhead were on Grier’s coaching staff. … Grier had been promised the Gonzaga head coaching job if Few left and Grier was still on the staff. Tommy Lloyd, the point man on most of Gonzaga’s key recruiting efforts overseas, is now Few’s designated replacement . . . Former Washington State coach Tony Bennett is back in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years with second-seeded Virginia (29-3). Bennett’s associate head coach is Ritchie McKay, a former Washington assistant and Seattle Pacific player and assistant . . . North Dakota State’s arena is undergoing a two-year remodeling, so the Bison often practice in an old warehouse. A former supermarket is used for strength work and conditioning, and the coaches work out of offices in an industrial park.