The Gonzaga women may be one of the hottest teams in the country, but so are the Belmont Bruins.
Tournament champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont has won 10 games in a row and 14 of its past 15 heading into next week’s NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins (20-5) are no strangers to the tournament; this is their fifth appearance in six years.
Twelfth-seeded Belmont will face 5th-seeded Gonzaga (23-3) in a first-round game on March 22 in San Marcos, Texas.
The Zags have won 21 of their past 22, but they’re not overconfident.
“You don’t see us undervalue an opponent,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said Monday after the bracket was revealed. “We’ve had some trap games, and we made sure we didn’t get trapped.
“I think our seniors are dialed in as well, and they won’t allow us to be any other way,” Fortier said.
Belmont is coming off an 83-75 win over UT Martin in the OVC championship, a game that saw freshman Destinee Wells score 32 points and dish out seven assists to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
Wells became the first freshman named OVC Tournament MVP since 2011.
The Bruins have won 10 consecutive games by an average margin of victory of 15.2 points. They rank 6th in Division I with 272 steals and 15th in 3-point field goals with 217.
No seeds of doubt at GU
A No. 4 seed would have looked more impressive on Gonzaga’s résumé, but it didn’t really matter to the players.
Entering Selection Monday, the Zags were ranked 16th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, which is the primary tool for selection and seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
That should have equated to a 4 seed; however, Kentucky (18th in the NET rankings) snagged a 4 seed.
“We knew we were between a 4 seed and 5,” said GU senior Jenn Wirth. “But we’re just happy with whatever.”
The 5 seed matches a program-best set two years ago, when the Zags were a first-round favorite against Little Rock and prevailed, 68-51, in Corvallis, Oregon.
Senior Jill Townsend felt the same way.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment,” Townsend said. “It doesn’t matter who you play.”
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