Gonzaga will be the No. 11 seed taking on No. 6 Iowa on Saturday in a Spokane Regional game at McCarthey Athletic Center. The other game at McCarthey has No. 3 seed UCLA playing No. 14 Montana. Saturday’s winners will play on Monday with the winner of that game advancing to the regional semifinals March 26 at the Spokane Arena.
No. 11 Gonzaga
Strength: Courtney Vandersloot, whom one ESPN analyst in the selection show called the best point guard in the country. She leads the nation in assists (10.2) and assists-to-turnover ratio (3.34) and the team in scoring. The team isn’t considered tall but the only starter under 6-foot is Vandersloot, who received the national award for best player in the country 5-8 or shorter.
Season highlight: They were losses, but impressive, 84-78 to second-ranked Stanford, the top seed in the region in the second game of the season, and 70-61 to Notre Dame, a two seed in the Dayton Regional, in Seattle, their last lost. The Zags’ 18-game winning streak includes running the table in the WCC for the second straight season and third time in history.
Style of play: The Zags love to run, leading the nation in scoring at 86.1 points a game, and at 49.9 percent are second in the country to Connecticut in shooting. They can also play defense, allowing 60.9.
No. 6 Iowa
Strength: Balance. Four players average in double figures and the fifth starter is at 9.1. The top three scorers are guards, and they can all handle the ball with between 99 and 111 assists. And like Gonzaga, only a Senior Day change kept the Hawkeyes from starting the same lineup in all 30 games.
Season highlight: The Hawkeyes have wins over Big Ten champion Michigan State and the red-hot Ohio State Buckeyes, both four seeds. They also won the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun.
Style of play: Not as fast as Gonzaga but the Hawkeyes average 70 points a game and allow just 63 and in a rugged conference ended up almost plus-2 in rebounding.
No. 14 Montana
Strength: The Grizzlies are accustomed to winning under coach Robin Selvig. He surpassed 750 career wins, sixth among active coaches, in this, his 33rd season, his 31st with a winning record. And his assistants have been with him almost as long, once they quit playing for him. Now they are headed to their 19th NCAA tournament with nothing to lose.
Season highlight: Picked to win the league, Montana was 15-14 a week ago, so winning three in the Big Sky tournament, the last one over host Portland State.
Style of play: The Grizzlies struggle to score and at times can be downright awful on offense. They averaged 62 points on 38 percent shooting. So the Griz turn to defense, allowing just 60 points a game on the same 38 percent shooting.
No. 3 UCLA
Strength: Nikki Caldwell. In just her third year as coach she has fashioned the best season in school history, at least by wins. A third seed in their 11th NCAA tournament, the Bruins’ 1999 three-seed made the Elite Eight. Caldwell has won three NCAA titles, one as a player and two as an assistant at Tennessee.
Season highlight: Almost everything that isn’t Stanford. Four losses, three to Stanford. The other was at home to LSU. Each game with Stanford got closer but the specter of not holding on in the Pac-10 title game may haunt them.
Style of play: Lock down D, UCLA only gives up 54.5 points a game and out-rebounds opponents by seven a game. The Bruins are especially big but their backcourt is fast and athletic and six players average between 7.6 and 12.3 points a game.