March 19, 2015

If an outsider were to assume seeding based on this contest's geographical location, one may figure Gonzaga would be wearing the home jerseys in its first-round matchup with George Washington in Corvallis, Oregon.

That's without mentioning the fact that a pair of victories for the Bulldogs would allow them to play on their home floor in the Spokane Regional.

Instead, the sixth-seeded Colonials will travel more than 2,800 miles and try to avoid being upset by No. 11 seed Gonzaga on Friday.

George Washington (29-3) set a school record for victories and has won 27 of 28 after beating Dayton 75-62 on March 8 in the final of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

It was done no favors by the tournament committee, though, having to fly across the country to face the Bulldogs (24-7), who will have to travel less than 450 miles to the campus of Oregon State.

While Gonzaga basks in the shorter trip, the Colonials simply are happy to be making their first tournament appearance since 2008.

"Our team has prepared for this all year long," coach Jonathan Tsipis said in a television interview. "I think the team should be full of confidence. I think we're ready for this moment."

It helps to have Jonquel Jones on his side. The A-10's overall player and defensive player of the year scored 21 points in the conference championship game and averaged 15.5 on the season.

She also led the A-10 in rebounding at 12.4 per game, helping George Washington lead the nation in rebounding margin at plus-13.9 per contest.

"It's a dream to play in the NCAA Tournament," Jones said. "We just want to take the steps necessary to do well."

The Bulldogs were unsure if they'd even earn a bid. They won the West Coast Conference regular-season title before being upset in the tournament semifinals by BYU, 61-55, on March 9.

Gonzaga has lost three of its last five, but its 16-game winning streak prior to that stretch was enough for it to earn a seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

"In past seasons it was that feeling of who we are going to play and where we're going to be (playing)," junior Elle Tinkle said. "This year it was (if) we are going to be playing. We're obviously really excited and just going to keep getting after it in practice leading up to that big day."

Tinkle, a first-team All-WCC guard who averaged 11.8 points, is the daughter of Oregon State men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle. A Gonzaga win in this contest could set up a matchup Sunday with the third-seeded Beavers, who face No. 14 seed South Dakota State.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Gonzaga and George Washington.

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