Luck of the Zags: Gonzaga 'super shocked' with No. 5 seed, will open 25th straight NCAA Tournament against No. 12 McNeese State

Gonzaga Stunned by No. 5 Seed, Set to Face McNeese State in 25th Consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearance

In hopes of bringing some luck to himself and his team, Ben Gregg, a junior forward, donned a green Saint Patrick’s Day necklace atop his white Gonzaga warmup attire during the team’s Selection Sunday viewing party.

“Luck of the Irish,” remarked Gregg.

But it might as well have been the luck of the Zags.

For the past quarter-century, Gonzaga has experienced a wide range of emotions on Selection Sunday, sometimes feeling they deserved a higher seed, while in other years, they surpassed expectations.

This Selection Sunday was no exception, bringing a pleasant surprise for Gonzaga.

Gathered in a club room at the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Bulldogs eagerly awaited their fate. After about 30 minutes, they discovered they were awarded the No. 5 seed and would face No. 12 McNeese State at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City for the opening of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

The game between the Bulldogs, who boast a 25-7 record, and the Cowboys, with a 30-3 record, is scheduled for a 4:25 p.m. PT start on CBS. This marks Gonzaga’s 25th consecutive appearance in the tournament, a streak surpassed only by Michigan State. The Bulldogs have consistently reached the Sweet 16 since the 2013-14 tournament.

“It’s always exciting to be surprised this time of year,” said junior guard Nolan Hickman. “I was expecting a lower seed, but it’s thrilling to see a higher seed next to our name.”

“I was genuinely surprised we got the five,” junior forward Graham Ike shared. “I was thinking maybe a seven. But I’m really happy with our position and how our bracket looks.”

Junior point guard Ryan Nembhard added, “I believe that’s exactly where we should be. Many had their opinions about our seeding, but they clearly didn’t know. We deserve the five seed.”

Despite the Bulldogs’ own beliefs about their seeding, most bracketologists, who spend months analyzing every NCAA hopeful, had predicted Gonzaga would land a No. 6 or No. 7 seed.

Bracket Matrix, compiling over 90 projections, had Gonzaga at an average seed of 6.98, with some even predicting them as low as a No. 8 seed.

“When you see your name appear, it’s an incredible feeling,” Gregg said. “We’re not feeling much pressure. Many on the CBS panel picked McNeese to beat us, which isn’t new for us this year. It’s just another challenge we’re ready to face.”

Despite Gonzaga being favored to win by six points according to, McNeese State, with its impressive 30-win record, was a popular upset pick.

“I’m leaning towards McNeese because of their speed,” said analyst Clark Kellogg. “Shahada Wells is a formidable player in the backcourt.”

Seth Davis also predicted an upset, saying, “This is where I might surprise some folks. I’m picking McNeese over Gonzaga.”

The Gonzaga players, accustomed to proving doubters wrong, took the panelists’ predictions in stride.

“I thought their opinions were interesting,” Ike said. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we know our capabilities and what we aim to achieve. It’s just more motivation for us. Think we’re going to lose? We’ll see about that.”

McNeese State enters the tournament on an 11-game winning streak, including a victory over Nicholls State in the Southland Tournament championship, after losing only one regular-season game in their conference and securing key wins against VCU and Michigan.

Gonzaga, on the other hand, is bouncing back from a 69-60 loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC championship game. The team faced challenges earlier in the season, including a rough patch in December and January, but managed to secure crucial wins late in the season to strengthen their tournament resume.

“Taking part in March Madness is something you earn, not given,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “There were moments this year when it seemed uncertain, but overcoming those challenges has made us appreciate this opportunity even more.”