After taking a look at the teams in the top half, here’s what the bottom half of the bracket looks, with teams Gonzaga will face in the tournament.
No. 14 Stanford (2-2) - Reigning PAC-12 Champs
You think Gonzaga has an impressive streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, Tara VanDerveer and Stanford’s is ridiculous. For the past 29 seasons, the Cardinals have been part of March Madness, and is likely to do so this year. VanDerveer is the female Tom Izzo, with program consistency her primary achievement to go along with two national championships.
After reaching the final foul last season, they were picked to be right there again this season. It’s been a mixed result so far at best. They were beaten soundly by UConn and Ohio State, which is somewhat okay. However, they were underwhelming in their two wins against inferior foes. They’ve yet to score more than 64 points this season.
They still have good players, with Brittany McPher (16.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg) and Dijanai Carrington (10.5 ppg and 10.3 rpg) leading the way. Their No. 14 ranking is more respect and opponent based driven, rather than how they’ve looked thus far.
Kent State (2-2) - A bad MAC team
The Golden Flashes aren’t world-beaters by any means, and will be sever underdogs against the Cardinals. Earlier in the season they took on another opponent in this field in Florida Gulf Coast, losing 62-50. Kent State does have a star player in Jordan Korinek, whose put up 22.3 ppg and 5.0 rpg so far this season.
Belmont (3-1) - Reigning Ohio Valley Champs
Similar to Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont is a good mid-major program that will compete with the bigger schools. For the most part, they’ve beaten up on some cupcakes, so it’s hard to tell how good they really are. But the past history indicates that this will be an evenly matched game with the Zags.
The Bruins can put up some points, with a three-headed monster leading the way. Kylee Smith (19.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg) will join forces with Salley McCabe (14.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg) to create a formidable front-line for the Zags. Guard Darby Muggard (18.0 ppg) provides the scoring along the perimeter.
Gonzaga (1-1) - Reigning WCC Champs
Last but not least is our own Zags. So far we’ve played the least amount of games, and have yet to play an official game at home. Other than Stanford, Gonzaga is the only west-coast team participating, giving them a time zone advantage.
There are two girls in double-figures so far, with Chandler Smith 12.5 ppg and star forward Jill Barta 18.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg. As far as what they need to do to do well in this event, it’s really only one thing............SHOOT!!!!!!! The girls are currently shooting 6/46 from three-point range, something Utah State did in the first five minutes against the men. Let’s just pray that the high-altitude is the main factor for the early struggles.
The other hope is that someone off the bench can make an impact in these three games. So far the starters have played well, but a boost is needed off the bench not only for the Shootout, but WCC play as well. The key for Gonzaga is winning against Belmont, which would guarantee them avoiding the bottom two teams in this event.
The first game with Belmont is on Thursday, 8:00 p.m. and can be seen online by signing up for FloHoops.com, as the game is not televised. You have to pay a fee that last time I checked was at least 15 bucks to watch a bunch of non-televised games. It’s also happening with the men in various new tournaments, which is a questionable decision to do as ESPN has plenty of tournament games to watch for free.
Either way, let’s hope that Thanksgiving weekend gives us as much joy on the television screen as it will in the kitchen.