Just three of eight AZ teams will be joining March Madness

Arizona will be represented this season at the NCAA Tournaments, but the list of basketball teams going to the post-season is slim.  Only three of the possible eight entrants will be making an appearance – and two of those three belong to the same school.

Grand Canyon University, a Division II school that will begin play in Division I next year, will be represented by both its men’s and women’s teams – the only four-year college in the state to hold that distinction.

The University of Arizona men’s team (25-6) is ranked No. 18 and just beat Colorado, 79-69, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.  So they’re still alive and will undoubtedly move on to the Big Dance, regardless of how the conference tournament ends up.

Arizona State‘s men’s team (21-12) lost its quarterfinal match-up with UCLA, 80-75, and will likely have to settle for an invitation to the NIT.  And the men’s team at Northern Arizona University is done for the season after getting blown out, 84-58, by Weber State in the quarterfinal game of the Big Sky Tournament.  The Lumberjacks’ 11-21 record assures they are done for the season.

On the women’s side, it was even worse this year.  Arizona State (13-18, 5-13) lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tourney, falling 48-41 to Washington State.  Arizona (12-18, 4-15) was also bounced in the first round, losing to Utah, 66-48.  And NAU (8-21, 7-13) didn’t even make it into the Big Sky Tournament.  None will see the post-season.

But it’s a different story over in west Phoenix, where the GCU Antelopes begin today to strut their stuff on the national stage.

The men (23-7) are the No. 6 seed in the West Region at the NCAA Division II Tournament and will play their first-round game against third-seeded Seattle Pacific.  The women (22-8) have also been seeded No. 6 and will open against No. 3 seed UC San Diego.

Both teams are featured in the opening game of the tournament and both are playing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

And both teams are coming off losses.  The men made it to the semi-finals of the PacWest Tournament before falling to Chaminade, 58-45, thanks to an incredibly poor shooting night.  The ‘Lopes shot 30.8 percent from the field, including a 23.3 percent performance in the second half, and were 0-for-13 from behind the arc in the second half.

The women didn’t fare as well.  They were given a bye in the first round, but were knocked out of the tournament by Academy of Art in a two-point loss in overtime – despite out-rebounding the Urban Knights, 23-19; dominating the paint on offense (32-6); and holding Academy to 32 percent shooting.

But that was yesterday, and today is the start of a new mission.

For the women, high expectations have come with the territory.  The Lopes enjoyed their best season in history during the 2010-11 season when they finished the year as the No. 9 team in the nation, then followed that with a 24-4 record and a fifth conference title in six years.  This year they entered the season with a No. 13 pre-season ranking and predictions to finish atop the conference standings – even though they don’t have a single senior on the roster.  They finished the conference schedule tied for second place.

The men, too, were projected in the pre-season to finish first in the PacWest (also finished in a tie for second) after coming off a 19-8 season in 2011-12 and their first trip in five years to the NCAA Tournament. But they failed to get past the first round, where they were beaten by No. 1 seed Western Washington.

This time they didn’t draw Western Washington, which is again the top seed in the tourney.  But No. 3 Seattle Pacific definitely won’t be a walk in the park.

Tip-off is noon for both teams.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)