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Defense, Depth Keys to Women’s Hopes for Deep NCAA Tournament Run


The Zags react to  their best-ever seed in the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Rajah Bose.

The Zags react to their best-ever seed in the NCAA Tournament.

By Dale Goodwin
Video, photos by Rajah Bose

SPOKANE, Wash. — Drawing its highest seed in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament ever, No. 6 seed Gonzaga (29-4) faces a Colonial Athletic Conference champion and No. 11 seed James Madison team that looks a lot like the Zags on paper.

James Madison won 28 games, the Zags 29. Both won their regular-season and tournament titles. James Madison won its last five games, Gonzaga six. James Madison lost just one league game, the Zags two, but came back to beat both conquerors St. Mary’s and BYU in the WCC Tournament. Gonzaga has nine players at 6-feet or taller, James Madison eight.

“I think we’re playing pretty well,” said Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves, who is taking his sixth straight team to the NCAA Tournament, seventh overall since 2007. This time the Zags travel to College Station, Texas after hosting first and second round games the past three seasons. “I doubt three-quarters of my players have ever been to Texas,” Graves quipped.

“We’ve shown we can beat great teams on the road. We are a tough team to prepare for because we play so many players. We have height, players who can shoot, and we’re pretty athletic on the perimeter,” Graves said.

James Madison hails from Harrisonburg, Va. It boasts an enrollment of 20,000, almost three times the size of Gonzaga. The Colonial League includes Towson, College of Charleston, William and Mary and Delaware, to name a few. 

Gonzaga and James Madison play Sunday, 2:30 p.m. PDT on ESPN. The winner will play the Texas A & M (24-8)-North Dakota (22-9) winner on March 25.

Listen to Zag senior Stephanie Golden talk about her last dance and her team’s tremendous depth, and redshirt sophomore guard Shaniqua Nilles talk about the progress both she and her team have made this season, particularly on defense. 

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