Preview Of First Round Game Versus Virginia
March 13, 2001
Gonzaga looks to add to its giant-killer reputation Friday when it plays Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the South Region.
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs (24-6) are in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season after winning the West Coast Conference tournament. Gonzaga was seeded 10th the last two years and wreaked havoc in the West Region, reaching the regional final in 1999 before losing to eventual champion Connecticut and getting to the regional semifinals last season before succumbing to Purdue.
Both times, the Bulldogs took out the second seed in the West - Stanford in 1999 and St. John's in 2000 - and accounted for five of the 12 wins by 10 seeds the last two years.
But this edition of the Bulldogs was not supposed to be in the field of 65. Forwards Mark Spink and Casey Calvary are the only seniors on the team, but coach Mark Few was able to plug in point guard Dan Dickau - a transfer from Washington - and freshman Blake Stepp into the starting lineup.
Gonzaga enters the tournament on a roll, winning 18 of its last 19 games. The 'Zags captured the tournament with an 80-77 victory over Santa Clara in the championship game on March 6. Dickau scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half and was tournament MVP while Stepp added 21.
"With the way we're playing, I think we're ready to make a run like the last two years," said Dickau, who was second on the team in scoring at 18.3 points per game and hit 47.2 percent (60-for-127) of his 3-pointers.
Fifth-seeded Virginia (20-8) is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997 and plays a frenetic up-tempo pace under Pete Gillen.
The Cavaliers picked the wrong time to slump, losing their final two games. They suffered a 102-67 setback at Maryland in their regular-season finale and were bounced in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament in a 74-69 loss to Georgia Tech last Friday.
"We wanted to become one of the elite teams in the ACC, but we lost in the first round," said senior point guard Donald Hand, who had just seven points on 3-for-14 shooting. "Man, we didn't prove nothing."
Virginia had four players who made at least 32 3-pointers, including top reserve Keith Friel - who shot 42.1 percent (59-for-140) from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers shoot 36.5 percent from 3-point range as a team but were 7-7 when held to six 3-pointers or less.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Gonzaga - Automatic bid, West Coast Conference tournament champion. Virginia - At-large bid, Atlantic Coast Conference.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Gonzaga - 5-3, 3 years. Virginia - 21-14,
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