Gonzaga women drew unlucky No. 13 for opener

Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier directs a play during Saturday’s first-round game at the NCAA Tournament in Stanford, California. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

STANFORD, Calif. – The difference between a No. 12 seed and a 13 is bigger than it looks.

For Gonzaga and Missouri, it’s as big as the Florida Gulf.

Several bracketologists had the Zags and Tigers meeting in the first round – a 12 against a 5, with the winner probably facing Stanford in the second round.

Instead, both are going home – Missouri because it couldn’t hit shots on Saturday in Maples Pavilion, the Zags because they misfired three months ago.

The NCAA will never reveal how close GU came to getting a 12 seed, but narrow losses to Belmont and UNLV probably cost the Zags dearly on Selection Monday.

The real pain was felt Saturday.

Instead of facing a Mizzou team that was flying halfway across the country, GU got stuck with a 13 seed and host Stanford.

Never mind that FGCU was 13 spots lower in RPI.

Now the Eagles are flying higher. After an 80-70 upset win over the Tigers, FGCU will face Stanford on Monday night for a chance to play in the Sweet 16.

There’s no telling whether GU could have matched Gulf Coast’s performance on Saturday, but it doesn’t matter.

The importance of seeding took a big hit on the men’s side Friday night after another alphabet-soup team, UMBC, knocked off overall top seed Virginia.

But for the women – in which the top-16 teams host in the first and second rounds – it means so much more.

To her credit, GU coach Lisa Fortier didn’t offer up any sour grapes after a 17-point loss at Stanford.

Last year, the Zags were an 11 seed facing Oklahoma in Seattle. That meant GU had a few more fans than the Sooners, nothing more.

Saturday was different. GU has overcome those odds before, notably three years ago at Oregon State, but the curve is steep.

“But it is different when you’re playing a team at home,” Fortier said. “It’s actually one of the issues that I have with the way it’s bracketed.

“You know, we were recipient of home-court advantage a few years before and we were always a low seed, so I didn’t think that it was enough to overcome the higher seeds we were playing necessarily, but it does help you.”