NORMAN — Gonzaga got the seed it wanted, earning the No. 1 spot in the West Region of the NCAA tournament.
The Zags have a seemingly easy opening-round game, facing a team that won its only NCAA tournament game 20 years ago.
It gets quite a bit tougher for Gonzaga after that.
Following an opening game against Southern University on Thursday in Salt Lake City, the Zags will have to get through a gauntlet of good teams.
Ohio State, Kansas State, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Wisconsin are all in the West. Throw in wild cards like Wichita State, Mississippi and Norte Dame and, yeah, the team that gets through the Staples Center in Los Angeles to Atlanta will certainly have earned it.
“That’s the biggest thing in this tournament: You can’t look past anybody,” Wisconsin forward Mike Bruewitz said on Sunday after the 68-team NCAA bracket was announced. “We’ve proven it and everybody else in the country has proven it, that anybody can go down on any night. That’s going to make for a wild tournament.”
There certainly should be some good games in the West.
Eighth-seeded Pittsburgh (24-8) is back in the NCAA tournament after missing its dance card last season and will face a tough first game against rising mid-major Wichita State (26-8), the West’s ninth seed.
New Mexico (29-5), the third seed, was the champion out of the conference with the best RPI, the Mountain West, and will open with No. 14 seed Harvard (19-9), which played its opening round at the Lobos’ home court last season after making the NCAA field for the first time since 1946.
One of the more intriguing matchups anywhere in the bracket will take place Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, where mercurial and sometimes maniacal Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson faces the badgering Badgers of Wisconsin.