Gonzaga was shipped out of Washington for the first time in its six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. The sixth-seeded Zags (29-4) will face No. 11 seed James Madison (28-5) in College Station, Texas at 2:30pm on ESPN.
With the state’s best team gone, fresh new teams were sent to Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena for the NCAA opening rounds Sunday and Tuesday — the biggest being No. 1 seed South Carolina, the last team granted the top overall seed. The Gamecocks (27-4) are among the elite (UConn, Notre Dame and Tennessee in case you’re new to this) for the first time in program history. And due to some old rules, South Carolina had to travel the farthest, arriving in Seattle late Friday and, if both teams win, having to play No. 2 seed Stanford on the Cardinal’s Maples Pavilion court to advance to a program first Final Four.
Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks’ newly inducted Hall of Fame coach, won’t let her team fret about any of it — the travel or the route to proving it’s worthy of its No. 1 seeding. South Carolina faces Cal State Northridge (18-14) in the first round on Sunday at 2:30pm on ESPN. No. 8 seed Middle Tennessee State and No. 9 seed Oregon State are the nightcap at Alaska Airlines Arena, playing at 5pm on ESPN2.
“We are not even going to let it into our minds,” Staley said at Saturday’s mandatory press conference. “Basketball is basketball, so we have to approach it as in another city another time zone. But when you tip it up we are not going to be thinking about the time difference.”
Here’s what’s been written about the teams to get you prepared for the NCAA tournament in Seattle, the first since 2010.
To kick it all off, Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone wrote about the rise of OSU, which was on the front-page rail of the newspaper’s Sports section. On page C7, I continued the theme of coaches rebuilding teams in advancing the South Carolina-CSUN game. There’s also a notebook leading with Storm F Alysha Clark’s return to Seattle as a first-year Middle Tennessee State assistant coach and a box taking a closer look at the Sunday matchups.
— South Carolina news stations sent crews to cover the action at Hec Ed. WYFF News 4 noted how loose the Gamecocks were before practice on Saturday.
— WLTX News 19’s James Starks will provide South Carolina updates on the Gamecocks.
— The Augusta Chronicle columnist Scott Michaux details Staley’s path to making South Carolina a winner like herself as a player.
— Greenville News sportswriter Willie T. Smith III writes about Staley’s star-studded coaching staff, including Olympian Nikki McCray.
— The Post and Courier’s Ryan Wood has a really good story on Gamecocks junior F Aleighsa Welch’s path to South Carolina.
— The Associated Press’ Curtis Crabtree led a notebook with a note about South Carolina settling into its new No. 1 seed status.
— The State sent reporter David Cloninger to Seattle, who went back to Staley’s beginning and how a 10-win season led to its first SEC regular season title.
— The Los Angeles Times writer Gary Klein had a blurb on No. 16 seed Cal State Northridge using Mercer’s upset against No. 3 Duke as motivation against South Carolina.
— The Daily News Journal sent reporter Will Borthick to Seattle to cover Middle Tennessee State, who hasn’t advanced past the first-round game since 2007 and features premier post players. Borthick also has a game capsule and a similar story ran in The Tennessean.
— The Daily Herald has a notebook about the Blue Raiders’ arrival in Seattle.
— For the quasi locals, the Oregonian sent new Oregon State beat reporter Gina Mizell to Seattle and she wrote about OSU coach Scott Rueck’s work in turning the program around. She also caught up with former OSU players from the troubled LaVonda Wagner era, including former Seattle U star Talisa Rhea.
— Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard writes that OSU is trying to treat today’s NCAA tournament opener as just another game despite it being the entire team’s first “Big-Game”…unless you count reaching the Pac-12 conference tournament championship where the team lost to USC.
— The Daily Barometer’s Mitch Mahoney is in town, noting MTSU and OSU are actually very similar.
— ESPN’s Michelle Smith has her take on Rueck getting his alma mater back in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1996.
— Lastly, Oregon State Athletics shared this video of the Beavers’ bus ride to Seattle, the easiest travel plan of the four teams in the Hec Ed field.
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