SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The second round of NCAA tournament games will start Thursday and fans of the Gonzaga Bulldogs have made their way to Salt Lake City to watch them play the Southern University Jaguars.
Fans got to watch one of the No. 1 seeded teams practice Wednesday afternoon before Thursday’s game.
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Dubois spoke with loyal fans who made the trip to see the Bulldogs play.
“To be here, to sit courtside and cheer on the Zags is so exciting,” said Catherine Hildebrand.
The Bulldogs have been to the NCAA tournament 14 years in a row and they’re no longer known as a “Cinderella” team.
“I try to make as many games as I can,” said fan Mike Lyons.
According to Lyons, who is from Spokane, the Gonzaga fan base seems to grow every year.
“There are as many Zags fans in the stands as the home team, so it’s really special,” Lyons said.
For the first time in the school’s history, the Bulldogs took a No. 1 seed in their region.
Fans came from across the Northwest, including John Revier, who is from Plains, Mont. He purchased his tickets to the regional games in Salt Lake City months ago, and little did he know he would be watching his favorite team.
“Oh, we were elated when we saw Gonzaga coming here and we had tickets for here,” said Revier. “Oh, I think they’ll go to at least the Elite Eight.”
Gary Bell, Jr., a sophomore guard for Gonzaga, said the fan support makes a huge difference.
“Last year, we didn’t really have a lot of Zag people at the game. It was a majority West Virginia and Ohio State because it was closer to their home. But this will be fun, being closer to Gonzaga,” Bell said.
Bell is from Kent and was a standout at Kentridge High School, and he heard they were showing support for him back home.
“At Kentridge, on the billboard, they have like, ‘Go Zags and Gary Bell.’ So it’s just awesome,” Bell said.
Bell isn’t the only player from the Puget Sound. Rem Backamus, from Longview, is a freshman walk-on for the Bulldogs. He only played in nine games this season, and averaged two and half minutes a game, but he’s part of a No. 1 seeded team.
“And just to be a part of this team, go along for the ride and be here with everyone. It’s just awesome,” said Backamus.
Thursday’s Gonzaga game will air around 1 p.m. on TBS.
Get the schedule for all the NCAA games on KIRO 7 and special schedule of KIRO newscasts here and get all the latest March Madness news, video and photos here.