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It’s Zags vs. Buckeyes on St. Patrick’s Day, the 175th Birthday of Gonzaga’s Founder Fr. Cataldo, S.J.

Today marks the 175th birthday of Gonzaga's founder, Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J. The Zags beat St. John's University on St. Patrick's Day last year. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

Tracking the Zags | NCAA Tournament
Third Round, East Region
St. Patrick’s Day & Fr. Cataldo’s 175th Birthday 

By Peter Tormey
PITTSBURGH – It’s another beautiful day here in The City of Champions with a high of 75 expected at tipoff when the No. 7 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs battle No. 2 seed Ohio State in a third-round game of the NCAA Tournament at the CONSOL Energy Center with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 next week in Boston. It’s also St. Patrick’s Day, which carries special significance for Gonzaga, which dismantled West Virginia 77-54 on Thursday.

Last year on St. Patrick’s Day, Gonzaga, a No. 11 seed, defeated the Red Storm from St. John’s University in a second-round game to advance to a third-round game against No. 3 seed Brigham Young, led by Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette with the Cougars prevailing 89-67. St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, died on this day in the year 493, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, (some sources note he died in 460 or 461).

St. Patrick’s Day also marks the 175thbirthday of Gonzaga’s founder Father Joseph Cataldo, S.J. Fr. Cataldo was born on this day in 1837 in the town of Terrasini on the Italian island of Sicily. He was the first of a long line of overachieving Zags. Chronically frail in health and supposedly ill-suited to missionary work, Gonzaga’s founder was relentless in his efforts to establish a boys’ school on the frontier that evolved to become Gonzaga University. He is a figure that continues to amaze and inspire researchers. Fr. Cataldo became a dominant force in the region and was appointed General Superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission in 1877 before founding Gonzaga 10 years later.

Speaking of significant dates in Gonzaga’s history, the University will celebrate its 125th anniversary starting at commencement in May.

Gonzaga has made five trips to the Sweet 16 and Coach Mark Few has been part of each one, including his fourth as a head coach in 2009. The Zags beat Florida 73-72 in 1999, their first trip to the Sweet 16 when Few was an assistant on Dan Monson’s staff. The Bulldogs lost to Purdue 75-66 in 2000, lost to Michigan State 77-62 in 2001, were downed by UCLA 73-71 in 2006 and lost to the North Carolina 98-77 in 2009. Michigan State and UNC advanced to win the national title after beating Gonzaga in the field of 16.

The CONSOL Energy Center seats 19,000 for basketball. It’s home to the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League. Photo by Peter Tormey.

Few is the first head coach to make an appearance in 13 straight NCAA Tournaments at the beginning of an NCAA Division I head coaching career. The streak began in 2000, Few’s first year as head coach. The Zags are 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament against No. 2 seeds and today’s game is Gonzaga’s fourth against a No. 2 in the tournament. Gonzaga stopped Stanford 82-74 in the second round of their improbable 1999 run to the Elite Eight, beat St. John’s in the second round in 2000, and lost to UCLA 73-71 in 2006.

The CONSOL Energy Center is a multipurpose arena in Pittsburgh’s Uptown area and seats 19,000 for basketball. It’s home to both the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and the Arena Football League’s Pittsburgh Power, which began play last year. The facility was completed Aug. 1, 2010, and opened in time for the 2010-11 NHL season. The arena replaced the Penguins’ former arena, Mellon Arena (known to locals as The Igloo) and currently known as Civic Arena; it is now being torn down.

Today’s game includes two of the most-winning active NCAA Division I basketball coaches. Coach Few is 342-89 for a winning percentage of .794 to rank second behind Roy Williams. The Buckeyes’ Coach Thad Matta is 322-95 for a winning percentage of .772 to rank fourth.


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