DAYTON, Ohio — St. Mary’s lost to Gonzaga in its conference tournament final, but made it to the NCAA Tournament anyway.
The Gaels will help open the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday night, facing Middle Tennessee. The winner will play Memphis on Thursday.
St. Mary’s (27-6) lost to Gonzaga 65-51 in the West Coast Conference title game, the third time it fell to the Zags during the season. Gonzaga got the No. 1 seed in the West on Sunday.
Middle Tennessee (28-5) lost in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament after winning the regular-season title, which in previous years might have been enough to knock them out of the NCAAs. Not this time. The Blue Raiders are in the tournament for the first time since 1989, helped along by another upset when Mississippi knocked off Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game Sunday. Middle Tennessee had beaten the Rebels.
“They had no rough patches along the way, and their win over Ole Miss looks better at this point in time,” said Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinksi, who chaired the selection committee. Bobinski frequently cited road wins as a leading factor in who got bids.
Middle Tennessee’s loss in its conference tournament ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games.