Zags Face Tough Foe In Red-Hot Davidson

The Gonzaga Bulldogs go into their Friday NCAA Tournament match-up with Davidson having won 16 of their last 19, but the Wildcats haven’t lost in 2008.

Davidson’s last loss was to North Carolina State on December 21. They went 20-0 in the Southern Conference and easily beat Wofford, North Carolina-Greensboro and Elon at the conference tournament in North Charleston, S.C. The Wildcats are 26-6 overall, and have won their last 22 games in a row.

Gonzaga’s last game was a loss to San Diego in the championship game of the West Coast Conference Tournament on the Toreros’ home floor. They had won eight in a row before that loss.

Both teams have significant experience in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga is making their tenth straight appearance in the tourney, having lost to Indiana in the first round in 2007 after going to the Sweet 16 in 2006. The 2006 run was the farthest the Zags had gone in the tournament since 2001. However, this is the first time since 2003 that the Zags have needed an at-large bid to make the NCAA Tournament. They have been West Coast Conference champions the previous four years.

The Wildcats, however, haven’t won a game in the tournament since making the East Regional final in 1969. Since then, they have lost first round games in 1970, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2007. Their #10 seeding is their best since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979. In 2007, they lost to Maryland in the first round in Buffalo, N.Y. This will be Davidson’s tenth overall appearance in the tournament.

Gonzaga and Davidson feature coaches who have been at their schools for 19 years. GU’s Mark Few spent ten years as an assistant coach before taking over as head coach in 1999, while Davidson’s Bob McKillop has been the Wildcat head coach since 1989 and is the all-time winningest coach in Davidson and Southern Conference history.

Both teams feature players who were named players of the year in their conference, Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo, a junior guard from Chicago, was the eighth straight Zag to be named POY in the WCC. He averaged 12 points and six assists on the season.

Gonzaga’s leading scorer is Matt Bouldin, a sophomore guard from Highlands Ranch, Col. He averaged almost 13 points per game. He and Pargo are the only GU players who average in double-figures.

Stephen Curry, a sophomore guard from Charlotte and son of former NBA player Dell Curry, has made himself one of the top players in the country while being named Southern Conference player of the year. He’s fifth in the country in scoring, averaging over 25 points a game. He’s also tenth in the nation in free throw percentage (89.4), three-pointers made (139) and three-pointers per game (4.3). Curry is also a candidate for the Naismith Trophy and the John Wooden Award.

Davidson’s Jason Richards, a senior guard from Barrington, Ill., leads the nation in assists, averaging eight per game. He also averages 12.6 points per game, the only other Wildcat who averages in double-digits.

Davidson may have one advantage. The campus, located in Davidson, N.C., 163 miles southwest of Raleigh, where the game will be played. Gonzaga had to travel over 2,600 miles to Raleigh for the game.

The winner of the Gonzaga-Davidson game will play the winner of the game between Georgetown and Maryland-Baltimore County on Sunday.