Gonzaga, seeded second in the South Region, highlights eight teams coming to Seattle, including 2013 NCAA champion Louisville, Davidson and trendy upset pick Northern Iowa.
In Seattle’s return to the NCAA men’s tournament spotlight, the pairing between No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 15 North Dakota State is undoubtedly the headliner.
However, the other three matchups taking place on Friday at KeyArena offer equal amounts of intrigue.
No. 4 Louisville, the 2013 NCAA champion, takes on No. 13 UC Irvine, the Big West tournament champion making its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance.
NCAA men’s games in Seattle this week
All games Friday at KeyArena
• No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 15 North Dakota State, 6:50 p.m., TNT
• No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Davidson, 4:20 p.m., TNT
• No. 5 Northern Iowa vs. No. 12 Wyoming, 10:40 a.m., TBS
• No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 UC Irvine, 1:10 p.m., TBS
Ticket information: Limited number still available at NCAA.com/MBBTickets.
No. 5 Northern Iowa, which rides into town with a school-record 30 wins, faces upstart Wyoming, which surprisingly captured the Mountain West tournament title and the No. 12 seed.
NCAA Men's Tournament
- 10 memorable NCAA men's tourney moments in Seattle
- Printable bracket
- Play 'Hoops Hysteria' bracket challenge
- South Region breakdown
- Midwest Region breakdown
- West Region breakdown
- East Region breakdown
- Seattle back in NCAA mix; goal is to keep it that way
- Unbeaten Kentucky an intriguing story worth watching
- NCAA tournament returns to Seattle with eight teams coming to town
- No. 2 Gonzaga opens against a foe with similar beginnings
- Poll: Will Gonzaga reach Final Four?
The battle between No. 7 Iowa and No. 10 Davidson pits the Hawkeyes’ stingy defense led by forward Aaron White, an all-Big Ten performer, against the high-scoring Wildcats, who rank sixth among Division I teams in scoring at 79.9 points per game.
The Louisville-UC Irvine winner will take on the winner of the Northern Iowa-Wyoming game on Sunday in an East Region round-of-32 game.
Meanwhile, the Iowa-Davidson winner plays either Gonzaga or North Dakota State for a spot in the South Region semifinals.
“It’s a pretty good region as far as talent and story lines go,” said college basketball analyst Dan Dickau. “The one game that jumps out at me is that Northern Iowa and Wyoming game. I’m probably going to pick Wyoming in my bracket, but Northern Iowa knows how to win and that’s a team that could end up making a little run.”
The eight teams in Seattle this week feature star power on the sideline in Rick Pitino, who has amassed 718 wins, and Davidson’s Bob McKillop, who has 502.
On the court, it will be impossible to miss 7-foot-6 Mamdou Ndiaye, the UC Irvine center who is the tallest player in college basketball. Other players to watch include: Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. and Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle.
This will be the third time KeyArena has played host to early-round NCAA tournament games and the first time since 2004. KeyArena also hosted games in 1999.
5 Northern Iowa
Overall: 30-3 | Conference: 16-2 Missouri Valley
Coach: Ben Jacobsen, ninth season
Seth Tuttle, the Missouri Valley player of the year, led the Panthers to their first NCAA tournament since 2010. The 6-8 senior forward is first among Northern Iowa players in scoring (15.3 points per game), rebounding (6.8) and assists (3.3).
Overall: 25-9 | Conference: 11-7 Mountain West
Coach: Larry Shyatt, fourth season
The Cowboys return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. Senior forward Larry Nance Jr., the son of former three-time NBA All-Star Larry Nance, leads Wyoming in scoring (16.1 points per game) and rebounds (7.3).
10:40 a.m. Friday @ KeyArena
Overall: 24-8 | Conference: 12-6 Atlantic Coast
Coach: Rick Pitino, 28th season
The Cardinals will be trying to make the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season, which would be a first in program history. Freshman guard Shaqquan Aaron, the former Rainier Beach High standout, averages 1.5 points and 8.0 minutes.
13 UC Irvine
Overall: 21-12 | Conference: 11-5 Big West
Coach: Russ Turner, fifth season
It’s the first trip to the tournament for the Anteaters, who have been in Division I since the 1977-78 season. Mamdou Ndiaye, a 7-6 sophomore center, is the tallest player in college basketball. He has played in only 14 games because of a foot injury.
1:10 p.m. Friday @ KeyArena
Overall: 21-11 | Conference: 12-6 Big Ten
Coach: Fran McCaffery, fifth season
Aaron White, a 6-9 senior forward, is the nation’s only player to average more than 15 points (a team-high 16.0) and seven rebounds (7.5) while shooting better than 50 percent from the field (50.8) and 80 percent from the free-throw line (81.5).
Overall: 24-7 | Conference: 14-4 Atlantic 10
Coach: Bob McKillop, 26th season
Davidson received its first at-large NCAA tournament berth because of its strength of schedule. The Wildcats are a high-scoring, finesse shooting team that averages 79.9 points per game, which ranks sixth among the 351 Division I teams.
4:20 p.m. Friday @ KeyArena