WHAT: Gonzaga (25-4) vs. Winthrop (27-5), NCAA Tournament, Albuquerque Regional, first round
WHERE: McKale Center, University of Arizona, Tucson
WHEN: Thursday, March 17, 4:25 pm (KREM 2, KGA 1510)
SEEDING: Gonzaga is seeded third, Winthrop 14th in the Albuquerque Regional. There are 16 teams in each of the four regionals.
RANKING: Gonzaga is ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25 (selected by media), 11th in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 (selected by coaches). Winthrop is not ranked.
QUALIFYING: Gonzaga, the regular-season champion of the West Coast Conference, earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the WCC Tournament. Winthrop, the regular-season champion of the Big South Conference, also earned its NCAA bid by winning its conference tournament.
WHAT THE HECK IS A WINTHROP?: Winthrop (pronounced WINN-thrupp) University is located in Rock Hill, S.C., 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C. Rock Hill (pop. 50,000), once heavily dependent on the textile industry, now serves as a bedroom community to Charlotte and has become a center for high-tech businesses. Founded in 1886 (one year before Gonzaga), Winthrop is a public university with 6,446 students -- about 600 more than Gonzaga, a Jesuit institution.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Bulldogs have one of the best offenses in the nation, the Eagles one of the best defenses. On the other hand, Gonzaga's offense is one of the most explosive in college basketball, and Winthrop's offense can be ... well, offensive to fans who like to see offense. Winthrop owns the longest winning streak in Division I at 18 games; Gonzaga is next at 12. Both teams possess good size and athleticism and are quite young. The Eagles rely heavily on 3-point shooting -- even 6-foot-10 Craig Bradshaw (who grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, with Gonzaga's Calum MacLeod) loves to shoot the 3. Gonzaga can pound it inside or bomb away from downtown.
STUD REPORT: Winthrop -- 6-5 So. G Torrell Martin (12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); 6-6 Jr. G-F James Shuler (12.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg); 5-10 Fr. G Chris Gaynor (6.5 ppg, 4.5 apg). Gonzaga -- 6-10 Sr. F Ronny Turiaf (16.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg); 6-8 So. F Adam Morrison (18.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg); 6-9 Jr. C J.P. Batista (12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg); 6-3 So. G Derek Raivio (13.5 ppg, 4.9 apg).
BOTTOM LINE: The Bulldogs will cruise as long as Winthrop doesn't jump out front early and slow the game down to a crawl. It's hard to get too worked up about a team with no one averaging even 13 points or five rebounds per game. The Bulldogs play a far tougher schedule than the Eagles, whose schedule is dotted with the likes of Ferrum, Radford, Coastal Carolina and something called Georgia College & amp; State University. (C'mon, guys -- pick one or the other.)
MARSHALL LAW: Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall (142-69, seventh year, fifth NCAA Tournament) -- "Several years ago they were talking about Winthrop and Gonzaga in the same sentence. What Gonzaga did was they took their program to another level. We were not as fortunate."
MAN OF FEW WORDS: Gonzaga coach Mark Few (158-36, sixth year, sixth NCAA Tournament) -- "The days of innocence are gone; we are a marked team and a marked program now. There's no going back."
NEXT UP: The Gonzaga-Winthrop winner plays the winner of Thursday night's Texas Tech-UCLA game on Saturday in Tucson. Texas Tech, coached by the legendary Bobby Knight, is 20-10 and seeded sixth. UCLA, guided by former Gonzaga assistant Ben Howland, is 18-10 and seeded 11th. Like Gonzaga, the Red Raiders pride themselves on grit and fundamentals. All-Big 12 guard Ronald Ross, a former walk-on, leads Tech with 17 points per game. The Bulldogs should have quite a scouting report on Tech, since injured Zag Nathan Doudney spent two seasons with the Red Raiders. UCLA has been inconsistent, but when All-America candidate Dijon Thompson (18.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and a couple of his buddies are shooting the ball well, they can hang with anyone.
TRIVIA TIME: Name the Gonzaga player who holds school records for career points, rebounds and blocked shots in NCAA Tournaments (answer below).
HISTORY LESSON: Gonzaga is 9-7 in seven previous NCAA Tournaments. Winthrop is 0-4 in four previous NCAA Tournaments. The schools have never met in basketball.
FAMOUS SEMI-ALUMS: The most famous "alums" of Winthrop and Gonzaga -- actress Andie MacDowell and singer-actor Bing Crosby, respectively -- never actually graduated from college.
NAME GAME: Winthrop's sports information director is named -- no kidding -- Jack Frost. "It's been more of a blessing than a curse," Frost says coolly (sorry), "because once people meet me, they don't forget me."
FOREIGN CONNECTION: Four Bulldogs and two Eagles are from overseas, including Winthrop freshman Jason Killeen, who hails not from Killeen, Ireland, but from another Irish town you may have heard of: Limerick. Each team has six in-state players.
BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: Winthrop was a women's college until 1974. Men are allowed in these days, but the student body is still 70 percent female.