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Women's NCAA Tournament 2011: Home Crowd May Aid Gonzaga's Cinderella Chances In A Difficult Spokane Regional

The first impression about the Gonzaga Bulldogs' 11-seed in the women's NCAA tournament was probably that a) it seemed low for a team ranked in the Top 25 (consider that Texas, an unranked, sub-500 Big XII team that has been decidedly unimpressive this year got a 9-seed) and b) that they'll face a difficult path to make a second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16.

Yet those concerns notwithstanding, three ESPN analysts have identified Gonzaga as a possible Cinderella and James Bowman of SBN's Swish Appeal noted that Gonzaga is one of seven potential Cinderella teams in the tournament (which, of course, is a perfectly familiar role to the folks at SBN's The Slipper Still Fits).

Women's NCAA Tournament 2011: Who are this year's "Bracket Busters"? - Swish Appeal
Monday, March 14, 2011 might be a day that the friends of the Hawkeye State might want to forget. (Except for one team - see below.) While Iowa State grapples with Marist, Iowa not only gets Gonzaga and senior point guard Courtney Vandersloot, but they have to travel to the West Coast to play Gonzaga in Spokane. (Man, you lose your opening game in the Big Ten tournament to Ohio State and the selection committee sends you a message.)

The women's tournament makes a concerted effort to make these types of home placements in hopes of increasing attendance and if last year's crowd for Gonzaga's tournament run at Hec Ed in Seattle was any indication, this year's tournament crowd should be even more vibrant in Spokane which will definitely make things tough on Iowa.

Beyond that sub-regional pod though, the Spokane bracket is quite possibly the most difficult in the tournament, if potentially confidence-inspiring for the Stanford Cardinal who have already beaten Gonzaga, the two-seeded Xavier Musketeers and the three-seeded UCLA Bruins.

And UCLA fans are none too pleased with that scenario, as best articulated by a commenter at SBN's Bruins Nation via Swish Appeal.

Women's NCAA Tournament 2011: Printable Bracket, SBN Links & 'Baffling' Matchups And Seedings - Swish Appeal
The committee was unkind to UCLA again. Gotta think they deserved a 2, and sending the Bruins across the same region of Stanford is just baffling to me. And giving them a lower seed than a Notre Dame team that they beat on the road and with a lower RPI? I say it every year, but I’m tired of the selection committee’s bias against every west coast team other than Stanford.

Having a home court advantage will be huge for Gonzaga in this particular bracket, but that doesn't minimize the caliber of competition in front of them.

For more fan reaction to the bracket, check out Swish Appeal's morning links. For more on the bracket, check out our Women’s NCAA Tournament StoryStream.To break down the bracket with Gonzaga fans, be sure to stop by SB Nation’s The Slipper Still Fits. For everything women’s NCAA hoops, stop by Swish Appeal.