Coming off a road win at Montana, Gonzaga will travel to Las Vegas to play in the second annual Play 4 Kay Shootout. The event has created in honor of Kay Yow, one of the best coaches in women’s basketball history. She coached NC State from 1975-2009 and amassed over 700 wins while making the Wolf Pack a great basketball program in the process.
Among her many accomplishments on the basketball, she’s most famous for her contributions and awareness raised for breast cancer research. A survivor herself, after getting diagnosed in 1987, the courage she displayed became the ultimate role model for women and men alike. Gonzaga fans are aware of Mark Few’s great efforts year round to raise money local various Cancer-related fundraisers. In 2007 the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in conjunction with the V Foundation. That same year she was awarded with the Jimmy V ESPY Award for Perseverance.
After a battled with breast cancer, she passed away in 2009 at the age of 66. However, her impact and presence in the college basketball world has never dwindled. Last year, an event in her memory and honor was created called the “Play 4 Kay Shootout”.
The teams involved in the inaugural event included Oregon State, Oklahoma State, South Florida, New Mexico State, Long Beach State, UNLV, Quinnipiac and fellow WCC mate Santa Clara. The Beavers of OSU won the first event ever. To compare that field to a men’s tournament, the closest comparison would be the Battle for Atlantis.
This group of teams however is the female version of the PK80. UConn might not be involved, but six out of the eight teams involved all won over 25 games and were the regular season champions in their own league. Here’s a tiny preview of the eight teams playing on Thanksgiving.
Top half of bracket
DePaul (3-1) - Reigning Big East Champs
The Blue Demons have been at the top of the newly formed Big East Conference for the past five years and will be fighting Marquette for the title this year. Their currently a few spots outside the top 25, but their 111-108 overtime win against No. 21 Oklahoma (who took out Gonzaga in the first round last year), shows how dangerous they are offensively.
The top players on this team includes Ashton Millender (20.0 ppg) and Marte Gray (16.5 ppg). Tanita Allen is the top post option, with 12.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg.
Florida Gulf Coast (5-0) - Reigning Atlantic Sun Champs
Outside of Illinois, the Eagles haven’t played the greatest of teams, yet still blew them out. Like the Zags, they’ve dominated their league and at the very least should be competitive with DePaul in the first round. The top players are Nasrin Ulel (16.2 ppg) and Taylor Gradinjan (12.2)
No. 9 Ohio State (4-1) - Reigning Big Ten Champs
This is a final foul caliber team whose only loss has been to No. 5 Louisville, 95-90 in overtime. They dominated Stanford by 20+ to start out the season, and have two quality frontline players, both averaging double-doubles. Linnae Harper (17.8 ppg and 11.0 rpg) along with Stephanie Mavunga (13.4 ppg and 13.8 ppg) might just be the best frontcourt outside of Hartford.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention a guard named Kelsey Mitchell. She’s okay and all, just coming off of another All-American season and is probably the best player in the country not named Katie Lou Samuelson of Connecticut. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year is currently averaging 26.2 ppg and is making nearly half her three-point attempts. She can easily go for 40 on any given night.
Memphis (2-3) - Just an average team from Conference USA
You know how every high-profile tournament has a couple of cupcakes to guarantee the other teams of at least one win? The Memphis Tigers are one of those. The two players that will be tasked to pull off the momentum upset against the Buckeyes are Cheyenne Creighton (16.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg) and Brea Elmore (9.3). You know how sometimes you see 50 point blowouts between great teams and bad teams in women’s college basketball? This might be one of those.
The likely semi finals match-up will be DePaul against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are just too strong for everyone, and should cruise to the finals. For the Zags, the goal should be to win their first round game, and even if they lose in the semis, they’ll face the Blue Demons in the constellation game, which will be good for the resume.
Stay tuned for the bottom half, and a preview of the Zags first round game.