One year ago, Grand Canyon's men's basketball team came one win away from its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.
This year, the Lopes are on a mission to finish what they started.
Under sixth-year coach and former Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle, the Lopes finished the 2018-19 regular season with an 18-12 overall record and 10-6 record in the Western Athletic Conference, giving the Lopes the No. 3 seed in the WAC Tournament, which begins Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. If the Lopes win that tournament, they will be NCAA Tournament-bound for the first time in school history.
The Lopes' first WAC Tournament game will be against No. 6 seed Seattle beginning at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. That game can be seen on ESPN3. If the Lopes win, they'll take on the winner of No. 2 seed Utah Valley and No. 7 seed UMKC on Friday night. The championship game will take place Saturday.
GCU joined Division I play in 2013, but last year was its first year of being eligible for the NCAA Tournament. The Lopes advanced to the WAC Tournament championship game last season but fell to top-seeded New Mexico State in the championship game.
"We're expected to win the WAC, we're expected to win the (WAC) Tournament, and we're expected to go to the NCAAs," Majerle said in a fiery post-game address after GCU's 72-58 loss last year. "We expect to be a top-25 team, and if we don't expect to be here, then I ain't gonna be here, and those guys understand that. Is that a lofty goal? Of course it is. But that's just the way it is."
The Lopes rolled to a 7-1 in WAC play this season, with their only loss coming on a half-court buzzer beater at that same New Mexico State team on Jan. 10. But GCU struggled through the rest of conference play, due in part to the loss of senior guard Gerard Martin to a season-ending knee injury. Martin is arguably the Lopes' best defender and was named to the WAC's All-Defensive Team despite missing his team's last nine games.
The Australian-born Martin has agreed to take over ABC15's Instagram Stories on Thursday to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the Lopes' preparation for what they hope will be the first of three WAC Tournament games.