Grand Canyon made program history Saturday by winning a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship, the school’s first conference hoops crown at the Division I level. The Antelopes are NCAA Tournament bound for the first time in the school’s history.
After sharing the regular-season title with Utah Valley, GCU (17-6; 9-3 WAC) went on to win the conference tourney 74-56 over New Mexico State on Saturday night, which clinched an automatic bid.
“It’s kind of surreal (winning the regular-season title), but you know, it’s not over,” said sophomore forward Gabe McGlothan. “It’s a great moment that we have, but at the end of the day we want to win the tournament as well, and go to March Madness. That’s the goal.”
GCU, the No. 15 seed will face No. 2 seed Iowa in the West Region of the Big Dance.
The ‘Lopes and Hawkeyes will tip-off on Saturday, but times and locations have yet to be announced.
Should GCU win its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, the team would then play the winner of No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 10 seed VCU in the second round on March 22.
The notable basketball powerhouses in the West Region include No. 1 overall tournament seed Gonzaga, No. 3 seed Kansas and No. 4 seed Virginia. USC, the No. 6 seed is also in the same part of the same bracket as GCU.
The Lopes broke through for the regular-season title in their first season under coach Bryce Drew, who replaced Dan Majerle a year ago. Majerle, who led the program for seven seasons, was dismissed after a 13-17 season in 2019-20.
Drew has won five regular-season conference titles in his brief coaching career, which started at his alma mater Valparaiso and includes three seasons at Vanderbilt.
“To be at home and have a chance to play for a conference championship, and then to be able to do it, those are memories … they’ll come back and show their families years from now what they were able to accomplish here,” Drew said of the team’s first conference title.
“I don’t even have the words to describe it,” said GCU senior Alessandro Lever, who now ranks third all-time on the GCU scoring list with 1,603 points. “We finally did it. We made history.”
The 2021 NCAA Tournament is scheduled to begin on Thursday, with the National Championship Game slated for April 5.