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Originally published March 15, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Page modified March 15, 2014 at 7:41 PM

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Gonzaga’s 16 straight NCAA tournament appearances: an impressive streak

Gonzaga will make its 16th straight NCAA tournament appearance, a remarkable streak worth putting in perspective.


Seattle Times college basketball reporter

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It was a dozen years ago that Gonzaga did away with the practice of a public gathering for Selection Sunday, opting for privacy over hoopla.

Sharing the moment or keeping it in-house, it’s a long-established way of life for the Zags, and in this latest iteration of the CBS telecast, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some Pac-12 Conference team in their future.

Gonzaga is popularly figured to be around the 8-9 seed line — a 7, perhaps, if you’re feeling indulgent — and there are a handful of Pac-12 teams in that vicinity, such as Stanford, Colorado and Oregon (six Pac-12 teams should make it).

If that doesn’t materialize, it’s quite possible Gonzaga could find itself on that 8-9 line in San Diego, with Arizona as the top seed — which would, prospectively, invite the chance of a revisit of their second-round, one-for-the-books, double-overtime game in 2003 won by the Wildcats, 96-95.

Lots of things become possible when one thing becomes certain, and that’s knowing your name will find its way onto that bracket for the 16th straight season.

Which is stone-cold crazy.

Making it means getting announced and analyzed not only Sunday on national TV, but all week on cable-sports specials, and on every radio show from Jim Rome to Doug Gottlieb. Brackets from Pensacola to Petaluma have your name on them. More tangibly, it means the Zags have a chance to earn their conference an extra $1.5 million over a six-year stretch with each win.

Sixteen. It begs for perspective.

It’s exactly the number of times Washington, from Hec Edmundson to Marv Harshman to Lorenzo Romar, has been to the NCAA. It’s 10 more times than Washington State has been there.

Sixteen is tied with Wisconsin for the No. 8 all-time streak. The seven better: North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan State. The only active runs longer are Kansas (Sunday it’ll be 25), Duke (19) and Michigan State (17).

“Wow,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said when I asked him last week on the Big Ten teleconference whether his ongoing streak is important. “That’s some good company to be with.”

“None of us are going to be great every year,” said Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. “Yet that’s still the standard, and you’ve got to be pretty doggone good to get in the thing. It’s probably still the thing I’m as proud of as anything.

“It seems like it’s taken for granted. But it’s on my mind every year. Kentucky goes to the national championship (in 2012) and the next year, to the NIT. It’s hard to do. It’s not as easy as people think.”

All you have to do, among other things, is overcome amped opponents, bloodthirsty crowds, NBA defections, recruiting mistakes, injuries, flu bugs, egos, Twitter, InstaGram, girlfriends and assorted unforeseen distractions.

It’s the league, say the Zag-haters, it’s the West Coast Conference. No doubt there have been times when the WCC tournament afforded a soft landing, but if it were just about being outside a power conference, then Butler wouldn’t have missed out on the NCAA in 2012. Virginia Commonwealth’s best streak wouldn’t stand at three, Xavier’s longest in history would be more than seven.

No doubt, Gonzaga has to assess why it’s had some less-than-memorable moments in March. To get to those, it has won games in the tournament five straight years, and here’s the list of schools with that going:

Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Gonzaga.

So Sunday afternoon, while the thrill might be more muted than 15 years ago, the Zags will know this much about the bracket: Wherever you’re headed, it’s a good place to start.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281

or bwithers@seattletimes.com



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