Branding Spokane as the equivalent of Basketball Town USA for the two weekends of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament next month takes a little nerve.
Gonzaga, ranked No. 23 in the USA Today ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll released Tuesday, is hosting the first two rounds of the tournament on March 19 and 21. Washington State is the host for the regional at the Arena March 26 and 28, the first time the NCAA put the tournament in the same city in the same year.
But officials at Gonzaga and Washington State are surprisingly calm with the ground-breaking event less than a month away.
“This is our fourth NCAA tournament in five years so from a preparation standpoint we’re moving along great,” said John David Wicker, WSU associate athletic director for event and facility operations. “We’re just starting our next push to sell tickets.”
This is the third women’s regional at the Arena, which has also held the men’s opening weekend three times. McCarthey Athletic Center has never been used for the NCAA tourney.
“We’ve been fortunate to travel with our men’s and women’s teams the last many years to many tournament sites around the country,” said Joel Morgan, GU assistant athletic director for facilities and tournament manager. “We have a pretty good idea what to expect.”
Chris Johnson, director of ticket operations, said Gonzaga has sold 3,152 tickets and those should all be in the mail by the end of the week.
With the tournament so close that number may seem low, since the GU women average 3,950 and are hoping for a sellout on Saturday for Senior Day, which includes the last official home game for record-breaking point guard Courtney Vandersloot.
“Our goal has always been to sell out,” director of marketing Matt Beckman said.
Big battle in Sky
Eastern Washington isn’t going to defend its Big Sky Conference title, but the Eagles will have a say in who replaces them at the top. This weekend EWU makes the Montana swing and then hosts the Montana schools next weekend to wrap up the regular season.
The Bobcats and Grizzlies are 9-3, just behind Northern Colorado at 10-3. Montana has won six straight games. Portland State is 8-4 with the same finish as Eastern.
Vandersloot will set another Gonzaga record on Senior Day – most games played, passing Heather Bowman’s 129. Janelle Bekkering is one game behind Vandersloot. … The beginning of the Washington-Washington State game in Pullman on Saturday has been moved up to 5:30 for broadcast on FSN. The Huskies have won 31 straight games in the series. … Joining Gonzaga senior Janelle Bekkering (3.48 GPA in civil engineering) on the District 8 all-academic first team is Portland senior Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep, 3.70 in mechanical engineering). Two seniors on the second team include Idaho’s Yinka Olorunnife (3.45 in exercise science) and Northern Arizona’s Jenna Galloway (Ferris, 3.89 in electronic media and film). … Tennessee senior Angie Bjorklund (U-Hi, 3.63 in psychology) made the District 4 first team. … PSU senior Kelli Valentine (Mead) is two games shy of tying the school record of 122 games played. … Arizona State, which beat Washington State 55-47, is 45-0 since 2005 when holding teams to less than 50 points. … Kyle Miller (Cheney) of Eastern Oregon was named player of the week in the Cascade Collegiate Conference after finishing last week with 38 points and 12 rebounds.
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