In the five seasons I've covered Gonzaga, here's the travel pattern when it comes to the NCAA tournament. 2008, Raleigh; 2009, Portland; 2010, Buffalo; 2011, Denver; 2012, Pittsburgh. Pretty much alternating far from home with close to home every other year, no?
Anyway, Gonzaga will trek east to face West Virginia in Pittsburgh, a little over an hour's drive from the Mountaineers' Morgantown campus. The seeding GU (7) and W.V. (10) is the same as it was when GU (7) took on Davidson (10) in Raleigh, about 2 1/2 hours from Davidson, N.C. in 2008.
You can see what the players and coaches think of the matchup in my article that will run in Monday's S-R. Here's John Blanchette's take on the tournament bracket and Gonzaga's draw. GU players certainly didn't seem too bothered by anything as Marquise Carter took a turn operating a TV camera, donning the headphones to look even more official.
There's more info on Gonzaga, West Virginia and the other half of the bracket (Ohio State and Loyola-Maryland) below.
(I'm sure this will look better in the paper after it's all coded, but here's the team glances that will appear in Monday's S-R):
Seventh-seeded Gonzaga will take on No. 10 West Virginia on Thursday in Pittsburgh in the East Region. The other side of the bracket has No. 2 Ohio State facing No. 15 Loyola-Maryland.
Here’s a look at the four teams:
NO. 7 GONZAGA
Coach: Mark Few
Strength: Gonzaga has had a good blend of inside-outside production. The Bulldogs rely on Robert Sacre, Elias Harris and reserve Sam Dower for interior points while the freshmen backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. have proven to be capable scorers and perimeter shooters.
Season highlight: The Bulldogs hung double-digit losses on visiting Saint Mary’s (73-59) and BYU (74-63) over a two-week span in February, then thumped the Cougars by 19 points in the WCC Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas.
Style of play: The Bulldogs aren’t as potent offensively as many of their recent teams, but GU has been fairly solid defensively and they’re plus-6.5 rebounding per game.
NO. 10 WEST VIRGINIA
Coach: Bob Huggins
Strength: Typical of the Big East Conference and a Huggins-coached team, West Virginia is a tough, physical outfit. Senior forward Kevin Jones has 20 double-doubles this season. He operates effectively inside and has stepped outside to hit 34 3-pointers.
Season highlight: The Mountaineers knocked off then-No. 9 Georgetown, 74-62, behind Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant’s 25 points and Jones’ 22. West Virginia also defeated Kansas State in double overtime in Wichita as Jones scored 30 points in 49 minutes of playing time.
Style of play: The Mountaineers have a strong frontcourt with Jones and Deniz Kilicli, a pair of 260-pounders that have helped the team to a plus-6.8 rebounding margin. Bryant has made 69 3-pointers and attempted 218 free throws. The Mountaineers have struggled from behind the 3-point arc (30.2 percent).
NO. 2 OHIO STATE
Coach: Thad Matta
Strength: The Buckeyes are stingy defensively (59.1 points allowed per game) and efficient offensively (48.3 percent FG, 74.8 ppg). Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger is a force inside. The Sporting News’ first-team All-American averages 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Season highlight: Sullinger scored 21 points as Ohio State ripped Duke 85-63. The Buckeyes also have impressive wins over Florida, Indiana, Michigan (twice), Wisconsin, Purdue (twice) and Michigan State.
Style of play: Sullinger is often the first option, but the Buckeyes have capable scorers in sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas (15.4 points) and senior guard William Buford (14.7). Sophomore guard Aaron Craft averages 8.6 points and 4.6 assists.
NO. 15 LOYOLA-MARYLAND
Coach: Jimmy Patsos
Strength: The Greyhounds feature a balanced attack with five players averaging between 13.5 points and 9.1 points. Junior forward Erik Etherly was first-team All-MAAC and sophomore guard Dylon Cormier made second team.
Season highlight: Loyola-Maryland defeated Fairfield 48-44 in the MAAC Tournament title game to clinch the school’s second NCAA tournament berth. Etherly was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. The Greyhounds also split with Iona, which received an at-large berth to the NCAAs.
Style of play: Loyola-Maryland is primarily a defensive-minded club, limiting foes to 43-percent shooting and 63.8 points per game. The Greyhounds average 7.8 steals and force opponents into 14.2 turnovers per game.
GONZAGA STARTING FIVE
C Robert Sacre, Sr., 11.7; F Elias Harris, Jr., 13.1; G Guy Landry Edi, Jr., 5.6; G Kevin Pangos, Fr., 13.8; G Gary Bell Jr., Fr., 10.0
WEST VIRGINIASTARTING FIVE
F Kevin Jones, Sr., 21.1; F Deniz Kilicli, Jr., 10.7; F Keaton Miles, Fr., 1.4; G Darryl Bryant, Sr., 17.2; G Jabarie Hinds, Fr., 7.6
Seed, region: No. 7, East
Conference: WCC (13-3)
Bid: At large
NCAA tournament record: 16-14
Marquee players: Freshman guard Kevin Pangos, the team’s top scorer at 13.8 points per game, earned WCC newcomer of the year honors. Center Robert Sacre was first-team All-WCC and the conference’s defensive player of the year. Forward Elias Harris made first-team All-WCC for the second time in three years.
Famous alumni: Former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, entertainer Bing Crosby, basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton.
WEST VIRGINIA (19-13)
Seed, region: No. 10, East
Conference: Big East (9-9)
Bid: At large
NCAA tournament record: 25-24
Marquee players: Forward Kevin Jones makes 51 percent of his shots and 78 percent of his free throws. He leads the team at 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant averages 17.2 points per game and 6-9 forward Deniz Kilicli, who is from Turkey, chips in 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Famous alumni: Actor Don Knotts, NBA great Jerry West, NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff.