March 29, 2024 

Sweet 16 notebook: Day 1 in Portland

Insights ahead of the Sweet 16 in Portland

PORTLAND — On a 30-foot-long black table covered in media materials at the Portland Super Regional Sweet 16 site, one item stood out amongst all the black and white papers. It was a Madison Booker cookbook, “Cook with Book.”

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Printed on high-quality, thick paper were tens of brilliant photos of Texas’ star freshman adorning Booker’s long list of accomplishments and the impressive stats from all of her games.

Some of the listed “ingredients” to Booker are court vision, unselfishness, great teammate, great passer, shifty, tough, physical, heady, high shot release, perfectionist and calming presence on the floor, to name just a few.

The last pages even include two of Booker’s grandmother’s recipes, red velvet cake and cajun pasta. While Booker may not be the biggest cook — telling media that she mainly cooks hibachi, her favorite food — this book is a fun and unique way to show off a star player.


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Saniya Rivers brings championship experience to the Pack

When asked what ‘it’ factor could bring NC State to the Final Four, Rivers answered with maturity beyond her years.

“Well, we have to take it one game at a time,” Rivers told The Next. “So specifically for the game tomorrow [against Stanford] we have to box out. Their post players are their best players — I feel like they average 19 and 18. So if we can take opportunities away from them and crash the boards and limit their second-chance buckets I think we’ll be okay.”

Rivers is a junior now but that is the kind of answer you expect from your senior/graduate leader, or your head coach for that matter. The 6’1 guard has something none of the other players on her team have, however — an NCAA national championship already under her belt.

Sweet 16: NC State players celebrate
NC State players celebrate on the court. (Photo Credit | Mitchell Northam, The Next)

Before transferring home to North Carolina, Rivers played her freshman year with a South Carolina Gamecocks team that won the program’s second national championship. She was a key player off the bench, young and energetic — clearly incredibly talented even then. Now she’s a leader but she will still bring that knowledge and experience.

“It’s hard out here. If a team is in the Sweet 16 and they’re dancing right now they’re here for a reason. So you can’t overlook anybody, you can’t underestimate anybody. So just go out there and play your game that you’ve been playing.”

Twin Truong sisters live out their dream together

Kaylynne and Kayleigh Truong are in their final year at Gonzaga and, after five years of leading the Bulldogs, they are finally in the Sweet 16. It’s a massive moment for a program that hasn’t made it this far in the tournament since 2015. The Houston, Texas natives both average double-digit scoring and can wreak havoc from behind the three-point line.

Playing in the Sweet 16 is special, but sharing it with a twin sister is a little extra special, or awesome, in their words.

“We’ve been dreaming about it since we were kids,” Kayleigh told The Next. “Talking about playing college at the highest level possible, making it through March Madness, experiencing it, and what better [way than to] do it together.”

Sweet 16: Kayleigh Truong (11) and guard Kaylynne Truong (14) celebrate
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kayleigh Truong (11) and guard Kaylynne Truong (14) celebrate against the BYU Cougars after the game in the finals of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. (Photo Credit | Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

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“It’s one of our dreams to play in the big dance and make it pretty far so I’m just happy to be living out the dream with an amazing group of people,” Kaylynne Truong said.

While the Truong sisters are two of the stars of this team they think that their depth is what could see them moving on in the tournament. Kayleigh told The Next that they have so many options and look to so many different players that one person being taken out of the equation does not cause them to lose their touch.

The No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns in the Sweet 16 at 7 p.m. PT on Friday, March 29 at the Moda Center in Portland for a chance to advance to the team’s first Elite Eight since 2011.

Gonzaga coach speaks on racist incidents

After Utah’s loss to Gonzaga in Spokane, head coach Lynne Roberts told media about racist harassment that her team experienced as visitors staying in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. On Thursday, Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said she found out about the situation at the same time the media did; no one came to her and informed her before then. Fortier also acknowledged what a horrible situation the visitors were put in.

“It’s a terrible situation that happened for those players and the staff,” Fortier said. “I wish it was something that will never happen again. Hopefully, it doesn’t ever. Student-athletes who are in this place right now are supposed to be preparing for these great games and enjoying this time.”

The Utes ideally would have been staying closer to Spokane but the men hosting first and second-round regional matches and a large club volleyball tournament made it more difficult to find good space closer to Gonzaga’s home.


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The Bulldogs coach also revealed that the Couer D’Alene Resort was chosen by the NCAA because it was a nice hotel, but didn’t know any more about the decision.

Whether or not these incidents that caused players unnecessary and hurtful distress will affect Gonzaga’s ability to host in the future is unclear. If they were to host again Fortier said they would try to keep it closer to Spokane but there is no certainty.

“As far as the placement, I think the committee just chooses what it is. We’ll learn from it. Next time we host, hopefully they’re going to be right downtown in the Davenport [Hotel] and have a great experience.”

Written by Bella Munson

Bella began writing for The Next in September 2023.

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