The St. John's basketball program (ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll) earned a No. 6 seed in the Southwest Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm (21-11) will play Thursday night at 9:45 p.m. on CBS against the No. 11-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-9, 11-3 WCC) in the second round of the 68-team tournament in Denver, CO.
Most college basketball fans are pretty familiar with the Bulldogs, who have made the NCAA Tournament for their 13th straight season. The Zags began their streak in 1999 when they made a Cinderella run to the regional final, but lost to the soon-to-be nation champion Connecticut Huskies, 67-62. In 2000, No. 15 Gonzaga upset No. 2 seeded St. John's, 82-76, in the second round.
A lot has changed since then. So, if you're not familiar with the new-look Zags, SB Nation did an outstanding job of previewing every team in the 68-team field. Here's their take on the 2010-'11 Bulldogs:
"Gonzaga finds itself back in the NCAA 2011 bracket by way of the West Coast Conference's automatic bid. The Zags are making their 13th-straight March Madness appearance after a decade of dominance in the WCC. Gonzaga has gone from Cinderella to perennial contender in March under head coach Mark Few's guidance, staying one step ahead of the rest of the WCC.
This season, Gonzaga struggled early and often, but pulled it together to share the WCC regular season crown with St. Mary's before winning two straight games in Las Vegas to secure the auto-bid to the Big Dance. It wasn't pretty, and the Zags stumbled in the middle of the conference slate, but Gonzaga still managed to find a way to share the regular season title and survive the WCC Tournament.
Record: 24-9, 11-3
Key Wins: Gonzaga's best wins came during the non-conference schedule as the Zags knocked-off Marquette on a neutral floor, 66-63, and Xavier at home, 64-54. Marquette is ranked No. 25 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings while Xavier is ranked 35.
Key Losses: The Zags lost to three teams ranked higher than No. 100 by Pomeroy, all of which came within a three-week stretch that saw Gonzaga falter in the middle of the conference schedule. Back-to-back losses on the road to Santa Clara and San Francisco, ranked No. 149 and No. 150 by Pomeroy, were the Zags two worst losses on the year. Gonzaga followed that up on Feb. 5 with a four-point loss to No. 103 Memphis at home.
Players To Watch: Robert Sacre, Steven Gray and Elias Harris are the Zags big three, each playing a key role in the offense. Harris uses the most possession and, at 7-foot-0, is Gonzaga's biggest low-post option. Gray roams the perimeter, triggering the offense as the Zags' biggest scoring threat. Harris has regressed this season after a stellar freshman campaign, but is always a threat to score, as well.
Marquise Carter also deserve recognition and has been solid down the stretch for Gonzaga. His 115.1 offensive efficiency rating is the best on the team and his defense has been outstanding, especially in the WCC Tournament.
For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Zags, please visit The Slipper Still Fits and SB Nation Seattle.
-- Would you like some information on the rest of the field? Well, here are links to the previews of the East Region, Southeast Region, Southwest Region and West Region.
-- Visit SB Nation New York's special NCAA Tournament page for complete coverage of the St. John's Red Storm during March Madness.