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
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
“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
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
Graves and Fennelly see a lot of similarities in how the other
plays. Iowa State just gets the added difficulty of playing a road
“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