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Gonzaga lands No. 2 seed in South Region and ideal setup placed in Seattle

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Kevin Pangos didn't focus on what was happening with the rest of the NCAA Tournament bracket or even that much on whom Gonzaga's first opponent would be.

Pangos just wanted to see a high seed next to the Bulldogs' name and the chance to stay in the Pacific Northwest.

"It was nice for us to be in Seattle or Portland," Pangos said. "That was all I was paying attention to. It didn't really matter who we played."

What was expected from the start of the season for the Bulldogs became fact on Sunday. Gonzaga was given a No. 2 seed in the South Region and will play No. 15 seed North Dakota State on Friday in the second round of the tournament at Seattle's KeyArena, about four hours from the Bulldogs' campus.

It's the first time the tournament is being played in Seattle since 2004 when the Bulldogs were also a No. 2 seed. They would like a far better outcome this time after getting knocked out by Nevada in the round of 32 that season.

But just getting out of Seattle will be an accomplishment for Gonzaga in its 17th straight NCAA appearance — tied with Wisconsin for the fourth longest active streak of any team in the country. The Bulldogs have not advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2009.

"It just shows the consistency that we have in this program. But that's the past. Now we have to focus on our journey this year," Pangos said.

The Bulldogs were in consideration for a No. 1 seed in the tournament until losing to BYU at home in the regular season finale. Gonzaga rebounded and looked impressive twice in the West Coast Conference tournament after struggling with San Francisco in its opener. The Bulldogs ousted Pepperdine in the semifinals, then outran BYU in the final, gaining a slight measure of revenge for the Cougars ruining Gonzaga's top-seed chances.

"I do think we stepped up our game," Gonzaga guard Gary Bell Jr. said. "Losing to BYU helped us get a chip on our shoulder and show us that we can lose. I feel like that was important for us and got us going."

Gonzaga hasn't been sitting back resting since beating BYU to win the WCC title last Tuesday. Gonzaga coach Mark Few said his team had two full days of practice since and will now start preparing for the Bison, winners of the Summit League Tournament.

North Dakota State will be familiar for many Gonzaga fans after the Bison upset Oklahoma in last year's tournament as a No. 12 seed just a few miles from the Bulldogs' campus at the Spokane Arena.

"I'm impressed with North Dakota State that they won their league and their conference tournament. That's a really difficult thing to do. It shows some toughness," Few said. "Obviously the other thing that is impressive to me about them is last year they got in this thing and won a game so I don't think this is a group that is going to be wowed by anything. As we know being in this thing so many times, we're going to have to play and play very, very well to be able to move on."

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