The Gonzaga University men’s basketball team continued to make history Sunday. The Zags, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, earning the West Region’s top seed. The Bulldogs will face No. 16 seed Southern University (23-9) Thursday at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Thursday’s meeting between the Bulldogs and Jaguars will be the second in school history. Gonzaga hosted Southern in the McCarthey Athletic Center to open the 2010-11 season, earning the 117-72 victory on Nov. 12, 2010. In that game, five current Bulldogs players saw action, including the trio of Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris and Sam Dower who combined for 41 of the 117 points. Two Jaguars played in 2010, including Madut Bol, the son of legendary NBA player Manute Bol who passed away in June of 2010. The younger Bol scored a team-high 12 points in the loss to the Zags.
Southern earned the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) automatic bid after winning the conference tournament by defeating Prairie View A&M 45-44. The Jaguars finished the league’s conference regular-season 14-3 to earn the top spot in the SWAC tournament. Southern has won seven of its last eight games.
The Jaguars are making their eighth NCAA Tournament and first since 2006. Southern is led by both Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller who are averaging 15.9 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. Beltran was named the SWAC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Gonzaga has faced six Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents in its history and has a 6-0 all-time record against the league.
This season marks Gonzaga’s 15th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its 16th overall. The Zags hold a 31-2 overall mark – the 31 wins being the most in school history – and closed out the West Coast Conference season with a perfect 16-0 record, which clinched their 16th regular season title. The Bulldogs won the WCC Tournament with a 65-51 victory over No. 2 seed Saint Mary’s College.
The winner of the Gonzaga/Southern game will play the winner of the University of Pittsburgh/Wichita State University Saturday. Pittsburgh (24-8) is seeded No. 8 and Wichita State (26-8) is seeded No. 9 .