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March Madness Begins as Zags Men Battle St. John’s Thursday, Women Fight Iowa Saturday

A Gonzaga fan appears on the big screen at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, site of the 2011 West Coast Conference Tournament. Both the men and women Zags captured the Tournament crown and advance to the "Big Dance." Photo by Peter Tormey.

SPOKANE, Wash. – It’s March and that means Madness for Gonzaga University as the Zags men and women basketball teams prepare once again for what many believe is the greatest sports spectacle on earth: The NCAA Basketball Tournament.

In a curious case of Zag-synchronicity, both Gonzaga teams are No. 11 seeds. The 24-9 men battle No. 6 seed St. John’s University of the Big East Conference at 6:45 p.m. (Pacific Time) Thursday at Denver’s Pepsi Center. The winner will play Saturday against the winner of the No. 3 seed Brigham Young University vs. No. 14 seed Wofford College contest.

The 28-4 (14-0) women tip off against No. 6-seed Iowa of the Big 10 Conference at 1 p.m. Saturday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The winner will play at 6:30 p.m. Monday (in McCarthey) against the victor of Saturday’s No. 3-seed UCLA vs. No. 14 University of Montana game (which begins 30 minutes after the Zags’ game) for the right to advance to the Spokane Regional March 26-28 at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

St. John’s, a private Catholic school in New York City, earned an at-large bid after finishing 21-11 overall and 12-6 in the Big East. The Red Storm beat six Top 25 teams this season, including four in the Top 10. Zags’ Coach Mark Few called this 13th journey into the Big Dance the sweetest, given how hard the Bulldogs had to fight from third place in the WCC on Feb. 11 to tie for the West Coast Conference regular-season title and capture the WCC Tournament crown with a victory March 7 over top-seed Saint Mary’s.

The women Hawkeyes bring a 22-8 (10-6) record to Spokane after losing to Ohio State in their conference tourney. The Zags, powered by WCC Tournament MVP Courtney Vandersloot, beat Saint Mary’s 72-46 to claim their third straight WCC Tournament crown. They advanced to the Sweet 16 last year.

Sabrina Jones will cover the women while Peter Tormey will report on happenings in Denver for the men; together, we will be Tracking the Zags for you online, on Twitter and via Gonzaga’s Facebook site.

For the lastest, inside news, video and information, follow the Tracking the Zags blog.

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