Despite a 30-4 record and No. 6 Associated Press poll ranking, the Gonzaga Bulldogs Sunday received a No. 4 seed and will face off against the UNC Greensboro Spartans in the first round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional Friday in Boise. Surprisingly, three Pac-12 schools made the 68-team cut, but USC — shockingly — was not among them.
The Trojans were 23-11, 12-6 and finished second in conference play during the regular season. USC then reached the title game of the Pac-12 tournament Saturday, where it lost to Arizona 75-61.
While USC was snubbed, Arizona State was not.
The Sun Devils recorded a neutral-site win over No. 3 Xavier in November and beat Kansas, a tourney No. 1 seed, Dec. 10. But the Sun Devils faded badly. They finished ninth in the conference race with a record of 20-11, 8-10. They also lost five of their final six games and did not win a contest during the Pac-12 tourney.
With an RPI of No. 34, USC is the highest-ranked major conference team ever left out of the NCAA Tournament in the 68-team era.
— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) March 11, 2018
But ASU, a No. 11 seed, will meet No. 11-seeded Syracuse Wednesday in Dayton, OH., in a play-in game, with the winner advancing to face Texas Christian Friday in Detroit.
A No. 4 seed like Gonzaga, Pac-12 champion Arizona (27-6, 14-4) will play No. 13 seed Buffalo in the South Region Thursday in Boise. The Bulls enter the tournament having won six consecutive games by double-digit margins.
UCLA (21-11, 11-7) also is in the play-in round. An 11th seed that beat Kentucky and Arizona during the regular season but gave up 94 points to Oregon and was swept by Colorado, the Bruins will take on St. Bonaventure Tuesday in Dayton. The winner plays No. 6 seed Florida in Dallas’s East Region on Thursday.
Head coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs, coming off their sixth consecutive West Coast Conference tournament championship, enter with a 29-20 in NCAA Tournament contests and reached the title contest a year ago in Phoenix, losing to North Carolina.
In 49 NCAA contests, the Spokane school is 2-0 against opponents with a No. 13 seed, beating Indiana State in 2001 in Memphis, and Akron in Portland in 2009. No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro has not played in the NCAAs since 2001.
Zags on the way to another Sweet 16.