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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Zags Face Hoosiers in Tournament Thursday|
By Peter Tormey
(SPOKANE, Wash.) -- The Gonzaga Bulldogs received a No. 10 seed Sunday into the San Jose/West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs will face the No. 7-seed Indiana Hoosiers at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. on Thursday.
The 23-10 Bulldogs captured the West Coast Conference’s automatic berth into the tournament by beating Santa Clara 77-68 to win the conference tournament. The 20-10 Hoosiers of the Big 10 Conference received an at-large berth. The game is to begin 30 minutes after the Weber State vs. UCLA game, which begins at 4:25 p.m. (Pacific Time).
Mark Few, head coach of the Bulldogs, said the Zags’ No. 10 seed did not concern him. What does, said Few, are the Hoosiers, led by Coach Kelvin Sampson. “I didn’t care what the seed was,” Few said at a news conference at the McCarthey Athletic Center after the Tournament pairings were announced Sunday. “I haven’t really cared over the last couple of years who we played. I knew it was going to be a really difficult team and boy Indiana is that. With Kelvin, they are a really physically tough, hard-nosed team.”
Sampson replaced Mike Davis, who stepped down after the 2006 season after Gonzaga beat the Hoosiers (90-80) in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Sampson is a two-time national coach of the year who led Oklahoma to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances (three Sweet 16, two Elite Eight and one Final Four finish), 10 20-plus win seasons, three Big 12 Tournament titles and a share of the 2004-05 regular season league crown in his 12-year Sooner tenure.
This is Gonzaga’s ninth-straight Tournament appearance and 10th overall. This marks the third time Gonzaga has received a No. 10 seed. The Zags were previously awarded a 10th seed in the 1999 and 2000 tournaments. The first time GU and IU met in basketball was at the 2003 Maui Invitational; the Hoosiers prevailed 76-75. [See Gonzaga's NCAA Tournament Record Book]
Few said he sees, perhaps, a slight benefit in having played Indiana in the tournament last season, but noted that the Hoosiers are a much different team now -- both with Sampson's arrival and the return of 6-foot-9, 251-pound junior forward D.J. White.
“Obviously, they are a vastly different team now with a new coach, a new philosophy and a new style,” Few said. “D.J. White didn’t play last year and he is a huge part of who they are and what they are all about. Our roster has changed dramatically too, so they are two really different teams now.”
White, who played in only five games and received a medical redshirt last season due to a broken left foot, averaged 13.7 points and 7 rebounds per game this season.
Few said the Bulldogs will focus on what has brought them the most success in past NCAA Tournaments, namely when they “have played really, really hard and played with a lot of confidence.”
The Bulldogs have fought through much adversity this season ranging from injuries, to the loss of center Josh Heytvelt on a drug possession charge. Still, they battled back to regain first place in the WCC, and capture the regular season championship and WCC Tournament.
Flummoxed in February, the Bulldogs are dancing again in March.
Few said this season has been “incredibly satisfying” as a coach.
“It is just as satisfying as any I’ve ever had as a coach or as satisfying a moment as we’ve had in this program over the last 18 years. Not only the Josh incident but the schedule we’ve played, the travel we’ve incurred, the injuries we’ve dealt with,” Few said. “It speaks volumes about the strength of the program.”