For the first time since 2013, “The Big Dance” returns to Silicon Valley.
SAP Center in San Jose will play host to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s West regional round, otherwise known as the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. The lone team to advance from the four schools playing at SAP—Arizona, Gonzaga, Xavier and West Virginia—will earn a coveted spot in the Final Four.
On Wednesday, SAP will host a regional open practice event that is free to the public. It will give fans an inside look at each of the four teams competing on Thursday. Game tickets are not required for admission to the open practices, and doors open at 11am. Each team will practice for 50 minutes, one after another as the first team starts at noon and the final team begins at 3pm.
Throughout the week, alumni associations will be hosting parties across the valley. Expect activity to fill the streets of downtown San Jose with fans repping their respective teams and chanting fight songs all the way to the arena.
Thursday’s first game will tip off at 4:39pm, when the top-seeded team in the West, the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs, face their toughest tourney test yet in the up-tempo West Virginia Mountaineers, who were seeded fourth. The Zags have been a popular pick to win the national championship, but the length and athleticism of WVU’s front-court pose a tough matchup that’s been highly anticipated since the brackets were first revealed.
Immediately following the first game, the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats will take on the lowest remaining seed in the tournament, No.11 Xavier Musketeers. The game is set to tipoff at 7:09pm but is subject to change depending on what happens in the first game. Arizona is close enough to consider this a home game, but experts have suggested the game could be an upset as Xavier looks to continue its Cinderella run.
Winners of Thursday’s games will face off Saturday at SAP and compete for a coveted spot in the Final Four, which will be held in Phoenix. Saturday’s game time is still to be determined.
Just reaching the Sweet 16 is a goal for many of the tournament’s lower seeds, but San Jose plays hosts to squads that have high expectations the rest of the way. The three other regional sites for this week include Kansas City, Memphis and New York City.