Gonzaga Greets News Of No. 6 Seed with Silence

March 10, 2002

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The stunned looks on the faces of Gonzaga's players said it all: The Bulldogs don't like being a No. 6 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Fans standing behind the team at a hotel in Spokane, Wash., began booing when the seeding was announced Sunday. The players, who expected a third or fourth seed, were silent.

"I would think we would have went higher," guard Blake Stepp said. "It's a little disappointing."

Still, Gonzaga (29-3) will be the higher-ranked team in the first round for the first time in its history when the Bulldogs play 11th-seeded Wyoming (21-8) on Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M.

Gonzaga takes a 14-game winning streak, which ties a school record, into its opening game. Its 29 wins are a school record, too.

"There are only 65 of us in there," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We have to do a reality check and remember what a special deal it is to make it into the NCAA tournament."

Cincinnati (30-3), the only team in the tournament with 30 wins, received the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. Its the first top seed for the Bearcats, who had been a No. 2 before.

Although the players were disappointed, Gonzaga's seeding matches its national ranking.

The Bulldogs play in the lightly regarded West Coast Conference, whose tournament they've won four years in a row. They shared the regular-season title with Pepperdine, which was seeded No. 10.

Besides the Waves, the other teams Gonzaga lost to this season - Illinois (No. 4 seed) and Marquette (No. 5) - made the tournament.

Gonzaga had victories over such NCAA tournament teams as Texas (No. 6 seed), St. John's (No. 9) and Montana (No. 15), and defeated Pac-10 schools Washington and Washington State.

But the Bulldogs' schedule ranks 21st in the Rating Percentage Index, which the NCAA tournament selection committee relies on for seeding purposes.

The Bulldogs weren't the only ones surprised by their placement.

"I can't believe that," Southern California player David Bluthenthal said. "I thought they would get a much higher seed than that."

In their three previous NCAA appearances, the Bulldogs were seeded 12th and 10th twice. Gonzaga, defending national champion Duke and Michigan State are the only teams to advance to at least the round of 16 the past three seasons.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to keep this thing rolling," Few said.

As for Cincinnati, it will play No. 16 Boston University (22-9) on Friday in Pittsburgh.

Two years ago, the Bearcats were a likely No. 1 seed, but Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament and they were dropped to No. 2.

"We're No. 1 and we've got a chance to win the whole thing," said guard Steve Logan, a two-time Conference USA player of the year. "We were unranked at the beginning of this season and nobody even counted us in, and look at us now."

The Bearcats' 30 victories are a school record.

Oklahoma (27-4) earned the West's No. 2 seed, and will play 15th-seeded Illinois-Chicago (20-13) in Dallas on Friday. No. 3 Arizona (22-9), the Pac-10 tournament champion, will play UC Santa Barbara (20-10) on Thursday in Albuquerque.



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