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Gonzaga's 23 wins enough to make NCAA Tournament

Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga will appear in a fifth consecutive NCAA basketball tournament, after the Bulldogs were awarded an at-large invitation from the selection committee on Sunday.

Gonzaga (23-8) got a surprisingly high ninth seed in the West, and will face eighth-seeded Cincinnati (17-11) in the first round in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

The Bulldogs were thought to be on the bubble after losing the West Coast Conference championship game to San Diego. But coach Mark Few had expressed confidence that his team would be rewarded for playing a difficult schedule.

Few has coached the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament all four of his seasons at the small private school.

But the team did not stage a public rally on Selection Sunday this year, worried that they might be overlooked.

The seeding was a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs. Last year they were ranked No. 6 in the nation, but received a shockingly low sixth seed and lost to Wyoming in the first round.

If the Bulldogs beat Cincinnati, they will play the winner of the top-seeded Arizona versus Vermont game on Saturday.

The top four seeds in the West are Arizona, Kansas, Duke and Illinois, and the consensus was that this was the toughest of the four regions.

Helping the Bulldogs in the eyes of the selection committee was a 43rd ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index. The West Coast Conference was ranked 11th toughest in the nation, and the Bulldogs won the regular season title by two games.

Tournament champion San Diego received a 13th seed and will play fourth-seeded Stanford in the Spokane Arena.

Gonzaga beat tournament teams Utah, North Carolina State and Tulsa this season. They also played well in narrow losses to Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Stanford and Saint Joseph's. The selection committee forgave them for losing to weak Loyola Marymount and Portland.

No other Division I team from Washington reached the NCAA tournament. Eastern Washington (18-12), which lost in the Big Sky tournament championship game to Weber State, could be in line for an NIT bid.

Washington went 10-17 under first-year coach Lorenzo Romar while Washington State fired coach Paul Graham following a 7-20 season. Neither the Huskies nor Cougars made it to last weekend's eight-team Pac-10 tournament.

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