Bracketology: Gonzaga, Washington State projected to land on 6, 7 or 8 seed line

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Two storylines that resonated nationally in college basketball this season resided in Eastern Washington.

At the start of the calendar year, many wondered if Gonzaga’s 24-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances would reach 25. The Zags closed the regular season on a roll with road wins over Kentucky and Saint Mary’s to go from the wrong side of the bubble to safely in the field, according to bracket gurus.

Meanwhile, Washington State, which lost two starters to the pros and two starters to the transfer portal, rebuilt swiftly under coach Kyle Smith.

The Cougars swept Pac-12 power Arizona, finished second in the conference and are expected to go dancing for the first time since consecutive trips in 2007 and 2008 under Tony Bennett.

What’s next for the Zags and Cougars? And which eight teams might be coming to Spokane for the first two rounds at the Arena? The answers will be revealed on Selection Sunday, but an army of bracketologists has offered predictions.

GU and WSU generally are No. 7 seeds or occasionally a No. 6 or 8 in numerous projections released Saturday, prior to several key conference tournament contests. WSU’s average seed on 114 brackets is 6.7 with the Zags at 7.0, according to bracketmatrix.com.

“We fought to get back into a spot to be playing in March Madness,” junior forward Ben Gregg said following Gonzaga’s loss to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game. “For a long time, a lot of people didn’t think we were going to be able to do it, but we stepped up and got into this position, so we have to keep our heads up.”

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projected Gonzaga as a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 TCU – a rematch of the round-of-32 game last March – in Indianapolis in the South Regional. The winner would face the winner of No. 2 Marquette/No. 15 Western Kentucky. Sixth-seeded Washington State will be in Memphis, Tennessee, awaiting the winner of a First Four game between No. 11 seeds Oklahoma and Virginia. Bennett is in his 15th season at Virginia and led the Cavaliers to the 2019 national title.

Mike DeCourcy of Fox Sports has No. 7 Gonzaga lining up against No. 10 Colorado State with the winner facing No. 2 Arizona, coached by former Zags assistant Tommy Lloyd. No. 7 Washington State meets No. 10 Oklahoma with a potential second-round matchup against No. 2 Marquette.

No. 7 Gonzaga tangles with No. 10 Michigan State in an East Regional opener in Omaha, Nebraska, with the winner meeting No. 2 Iowa State/No. 15 South Dakota State, according to Jerry Palm of CBS Sports. No. 7 WSU opens in Charlotte, North Carolina, against the First Four winner between 10 seeds St. John’s and Northwestern. No. 2 Tennessee or No. 15 Fairfield are potential second-round foes.

The Field of 68 has Gonzaga and Washington State as No. 7 seeds. GU takes on No. 10 Oklahoma. WSU faces No. 10 Michigan State with the winner advancing to face the No. 2 Tennessee/No. 15 Western Kentucky winner.

All four brackets listed Arizona as a No. 2 seed in the West and WCC champion Saint Mary’s as a No. 6. Lunardi, DeCourcy and Field of 68 project Boise State, guided by former GU assistant Leon Rice, as a No. 8 seed. The Broncos are a No. 7 in Palm’s bracket. Houston, UConn, Purdue and North Carolina are No. 1 seeds.

Lunardi’s first-round matchups at the Arena: No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 McNeese State; No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Vermont; No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 12 Princeton (before the Tigers lost in the Ivy League Tournament); and No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Charleston.

Spokane-bound according to Palm: No. 5 Utah State vs. No. 12 South Florida (before falling in the AAC Tournament semifinals); No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Charleston; No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 12 VCU; and No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Vermont.

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