Zags Receive Highest NCAA Seed Ever, Will Face JMU
SPOKANE, Wash. — The Gonzaga University women’s basketball team made school history Monday, receiving the program’s highest seed ever when the NCAA announced the pairings for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, the No. 6 seed in the Lincoln Region, will face 11th-seeded James Madison University in Sunday’s opening round in College Station, Texas.
Tipoff for Sunday’s matchup is slated for 2:30 p.m. Pacific. ESPN will broadcast the game, however, early-round games are often subject to whip-around coverage. This year’s Final Four will take place in Nashville, Tenn.
This season marks Gonzaga’s sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and seventh overall, with every berth in the field coming since 2007. Prior to this selection, the Zags’ highest seed came in 2010, when they received a No. 7 seed and made their first Sweet Sixteen. They have advanced at least that far in three of their last four trips to the NCAAs, with the highpoint being an Elite Eight appearance in 2011.
For the first time since their current NCAA Tournament streak began in 2009, the Bulldogs (29-4) will have to travel outside the state of Washington for the competition’s early rounds. Sunday’s showdown will mark just the second meeting between Gonzaga and James Madison, a school of nearly 20,000 students in Harrisonburg, Va. The previous matchup occurred in 1996 at the Cablevision Classic in Lincoln, Neb. James Madison won 72-66.
The Dukes, 28-5 overall, won the Colonial Athletic Association’s regular season and tournament championships. They are making their ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but first since 2011.
Kirby Burkholder, the CAA Player of the Year, paces the Dukes’ attack. The senior guard averages 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Three other players also average double-figure scoring for JMU, including Precious Hall (13.6), Toia Giggetts (13.2) and Jazmon Gwathmey (10.1). The Dukes also boast CAA Defensive Player of the Year Nikki Newman.
Gonzaga qualified for the NCAAs by claiming the West Coast Conference’s automatic bid. The Zags snagged their sixth WCC Tournament championship by winning three games in Las Vegas, including a 71-57 victory over BYU in the title tilt.
The Bulldogs also finished 16-2 in the WCC en route to their 10th consecutive regular-season title. That string of conference championships is the seventh-longest streak in the history of women’s college basketball.
The winner of the Gonzaga/James Madison game will play either Texas A&M, a no. 3 seed from the Southeastern Conference, or North Dakota, the No. 14 seed from the Big Sky.
All-Session tickets for the NCAA Tournament can be purchased through Gonzaga by clicking here.