The Gonzaga women received a 5 seed in the Albany Region of the NCAA Tournament. They will face Arkansas Little Rock in the first round on Saturday in Corvallis, with the winner facing the winner of Oregon State-Boise State. The 5 seed Gonzaga received is the best in school history, passing the 6 seed they received in 2013.
There are plenty of storylines to watch here. Most notably, Gonzaga went through a lot turmoil the last week. Head Coach Lisa Fortier’s brother passed away the day after the WCC championship game. The Zags will most likely be without Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend after both went down with leg injuries in the WCC semi-final game. This group of Gonzaga seniors has not won an NCAA Tournament game. They are 0-2 in the Big Dance with a WNIT appearance mixed in.
In fact, the last NCAA Tournament game Gonzaga won was in 2015 against… Oregon State. The Zags were an 11 seed in Lisa Fortier’s first year at the helm when they upset 6 seed George Washington and then 3 seed Oregon State on their home court in Corvallis. That 2015 Oregon State team spent all season in the top 15 nationally, but got upset in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament by a 13-16 Colorado team. This season’s Beavers also spent most of the season in the top 15, and then they got upset in the quarterfinals by a 9-20 Washington Huskies team. It’s a very weird case of déjà vu, and if everything goes right, Gonzaga will face Oregon State on their home court again in the second round on Monday night, looking to continue that déjà vu.
The Gonzaga women finished the regular season 28-4, with three of the losses coming to BYU, who received a 7 seed, and the other coming to number one seed Notre Dame. The Bulldogs beat Stanford, who is the number two seed across from BYU, along with Rutgers, who is a 7 seed across from UConn. Of course, all of those games came at full strength. With Stockton and Townsend out, it’s up to Jessie Loera to fill the void at point guard and Melody Kempton and Louise Forsyth to step up into bigger roles off the bench.
Gonzaga’s first round opponent, Little Rock, went 21-10 in the regular season, including a 15-3 mark in the Sun Belt and a conference tournament championship. They do have two common opponents from the non-conference. Both teams played Western Kentucky and Missouri State. Gonzaga went 2-0 and Little Rock went 0-2. With so much happening since December, those match-ups probably don’t mean much at this point. But it’s nice to have some sort of reference. If Gonzaga were to get to the Sweet 16, top seeded Louisville will be waiting for them.
The women’s bracket was accidentally leaked several hours early as a sidebar on ESPNU. Someone happened to be watching and tweeted out the entire bracket before the selection show was supposed to begin at 4 pm. The NCAA and ESPN realized their mistake and moved the entire selection show up two hours, ruining the watch parties for several schools across the country.
Today’s selection show watch party at @MattArena has been cancelled.— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) March 18, 2019
ESPN accidentally released the bracket early and is currently airing the selection show now instead.
Our apologies to fans who made plans for today's event.
Gonzaga plays Little Rock on Saturday at 12:30 pm pacific time on ESPN2.
3 PM UPDATE: In a statement from Gonzaga Athletics Monday afternoon, Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend have both officially been ruled out of the NCAA Tournament.
“Gonzaga women’s basketball players Jill Townsend and Laura Stockton will not play in GU’s upcoming NCAA Tournament games. Townsend is scheduled for surgery on her lower leg later Monday afternoon. Stockton is continuing to be evaluated and more information will be available in the next couple weeks.”