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Gonzaga, Kansas, Syracuse among teams coming to SLC for NCAA Tournament

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Mar 17th, 2019 @ 6:27pm | Posted - Mar 17th, 2019 @ 6:08pm



SALT LAKE CITY — The NCAA Tournament is coming March 21 and 23 to Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Eight teams will play first and second round games this weekend in the first and second rounds, four each in the Midwest and West regions.

Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West with a record of 30-3, will face the First Four winner of Prairie View A&M and Fairleigh Dickinson.

If the Zags advance, they’ll face the winner of the 8-9 game between Syracuse (20-13) and Baylor (19-13).

It's the third time since 2013 that Gonzaga has played at Vivint Arena in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags were upset that year by Wichita State, but won the regional two years ago after opening against South Dakota State.

That type of tournament experience is invaluable every March, Gonzaga coach Mark Few told NCAA.com.

“It’s a totally different experience from your schedule every day it’s not your normal road game one neutral game, with all the things that are expected of you as a player," Few said.

“To have guys who have been through that and experienced it, and advanced as far as you can advance, it can’t help but help you in some way, shape or form. But at the end of the day, it’s about who is playing good in those 40 minutes. Over the years, our teams have always functioned very, very well in those moments.”

The Orange will be making their first visit to Salt Lake City for the tournament. But Jim Boeheim has led Syracuse to the Big Dance 34 times in Boeheim's 43 years as a head coach.

"We figured we’d be out west and that’s where it turned out," Boeheim told media Sunday night in Central New York. "I’ve seen Baylor a little bit and they’re a really good team. That’s what you’re going to get in this tournament anyway. We’re just happy to have the opportunity."

Syracuse will get a boost from the return of top scorer Tyus Battle, whom Boeheim said is "close to 100 percent" after practicing Sunday.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim reacts to a call during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo: Ben McKeown, AP)

Battle, who averaged 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, missed two games in the ACC Tournament with a sore back after suffering the injury March 9 against Clemson.

“I’m feeling good,” Battle told the Syracuse Post-Standard on Sunday evening. “Almost close to 100 percent. I’ll be ready to play.”

No. 4 Kansas is the top seed from the Midwest in Salt Lake City, and the Jayhawks (25-9) will play Northeastern (23-10) in the first round.

That winner will advance to face the winner of No. 5-seeded Auburn (26-9) and Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament champion New Mexico State (30-4) in the second round.

Tickets are available at vivintarena.com.

Duke is the overall No. 1 seed of the tournament and the headliner of the East Regional. Other No. 1 seeds are Virginia and North Carolina, marking the second time in tournament history that one conference has received three top seeds and first since the Big East did it in 2009.

Michigan State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan make up the No. 2 seeds, while Texas Tech, Houston, LSU and Purdue make up the No. 3 seed line.

Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Florida State and Kansas make up the top 16 overall seeds.

See the full bracket on NCAA.com.

Midwest Regional, March 21-23

Auburn (26-9) vs. New Mexico State (30-4), 11:30 a.m. MDT

Kansas (25-9) vs. Northeastern (23-10)

West Regional, March 21-23

Gonzaga (30-4) vs. Prairie View A&M (22-12)/Fairleigh Dickinson (20-13), 5:27 p.m. MDT

Syracuse (20-13) vs. Baylor (19-10)

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