Iowa St.-Gonzaga Preview

Inside his office Friday morning, while other staff members were

sitting in meetings, Gonzaga’s Kelly Graves pulled together fellow

coaches Robin Selvig of Montana, Andy Landers of Georgia and Bill

Fennelly of Iowa State to pose for a picture.

That was only 2,614 combined career victories at all levels, and

71 NCAA tournament appearances gathered together inside the

McCarthy Athletic Center, an impressive collection of coaching

success that would be hard to match at any other site for the first

weekend of the NCAA women’s tournament.

“Three Hall of Fame coaches really. I feel like the schmuck of

the group,” Graves said. “People that I look up to. It was humbling

to have them all there. It was unique just to have the chance to

talk for a little bit.”

That depth of coaching experience and success will be on display

Saturday when No. 12 seed Gonzaga faces fifth-seeded Iowa State and

No. 4 seed Georgia takes on 13th-seeded Montana in the first round

of the Spokane Regional.

For 23rd-ranked Iowa State (23-8), this tournament trip is about

redemption after being bounced in the first round a year ago.

The Cyclones face a difficult challenge and not much of a reward

for winning 23 games and reaching the Big 12 Conference tournament

title game, being asked to face Gonzaga (27-5) on its home

floor.

Gonzaga has reached the round of 16 the past three seasons and

the last two years has used its home court to propel the Bulldogs.

Last season, Gonzaga pulled off upsets of Rutgers and Miami to

reach the regional semifinals.

Two years ago, as a No. 11 seed, the Bulldogs knocked off Iowa,

UCLA and Louisville to reach the regional final, where their run

ended against Stanford. That tourney run featured the Bulldogs

playing the first two rounds on their home floor, followed by the

regional across town at the Spokane Arena.

That’s the same scenario in front of Gonzaga again this

year.

“We talked about it, it’s been mentioned, but we don’t want to

focus on anything except this game tomorrow,” said Gonzaga guard

Taelor Karr, the West Coast Conference player of the year. “You’re

not guaranteed anything but tomorrow’s game. We have to go play

hard. If we get that done, we work on Monday.”

Iowa State might be the most difficult first-round opponent the

Bulldogs have drawn during their recent run. The Cyclones feature

size on the front line that Gonzaga rarely sees outside of

non-conference games.

No one for Iowa State is better than all-Big 12 selection Hallie

Christofferson, who has scored 20 or more points 11 times this

season. She’s been getting help lately from 6-foot-7 center Anna

Prins, who is averaging 20.3 points in her last four games,

including a career-high 32 against Oklahoma in the Big 12

semifinals.

Graves and Fennelly see a lot of similarities in how the other

plays. Iowa State just gets the added difficulty of playing a road

game.

“The night of the selection, I probably had 20 text messages

saying congratulations, and you got a terrible draw,” Fennelly

said. “It is what it is. We’re not going to make any excuses for

it.”