The Bulldogs head into WCC with a 7-4 record, while dealing with injuries to both their All-WCC preseason players. Here are 10 observations of what’s happened so far.
- Zykera Rice was the MVP of the non-conference for the Bulldogs. Her huge games while Jill Barta was out helped Gonzaga big time, and she’s second on the team in both scoring (13.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg), both twice as much as a year ago. She’s only played 23 mpg this season due to foul trouble, so her numbers could be even better. She is constantly improving her game, and could be the best overall athlete in the WCC.
- Gonzaga’s frontcourt is by far the best in the league. Barta’s 19.2 ppg and 9.6 rpg will be replicated in the WCC, but the emergence of Rice, combined with the continued development of the Wirth twins, makes the Zags above and beyond the team with the best post players.
- Speaking of Barta, it’s essentially a two-women race for conference Player of the Year between her and the reigning winner BYU’s Cassie Devashrayee, the league’s leading scorer. What might help Barta’s case is the overall team play, as the coaches like to reward the best player on the best team, if there’s clearly one in the standings.
- Another point about the frontcourt, the rebounding is what will win this team games. Gonzaga’s defense will force missed shots, and the ability to pull down those boards will be vital. On the other end, this team sometimes throws up bricks as well, and so far for Zags already have at least 20 offensive boards. There will be a size advantage in league play, so more rebounds will equal more wins.
- Along with Rice, Chandler Smith has excelled with her increased role, being the top perimeter option for the team. She’s also an outstanding rebounder, getting at least six a game. She the third double figure scorer, and shoots 32% from three-point range, good for second on the team. Her durability has been the most impressive, averaging 33 mpg, five more than the next best Zag.
- While Gonzaga has three good scorers, the drop-off from the third to the fourth is a cause for concern. When no one else outside of the top three scores more than 6.3 ppg, the team becomes to reliant on certain people. The 52-50 UNLV loss without Barta is evident of that.
- While there might not be a backup option at point guard for the men’s, there clearly is one for the women. When Laura Stockton was out for a couple of weeks, Jessie Loera stepped in and played very well. She had multiple games of at least five assists, and is now fourth on the team in scoring. You never know when an injury will occur, and no position impacts an offense like the point guard, so having a legit backup option is important to any team.
- Gonzaga shoots 23% from three-point range (I checked it five times, but it’s really that bad), which ranks dead last in the WCC. The good news is that the Zags are second in three-point defensive percentage. This team will have to make many more twos than teams make threes.
- Emma Stach has struggled on offense so far this season, making just 5/24 three-pointers. What makes her so important however has been her stellar defense, shutting down multiple lead guards from opposing teams. The WCC has some good guards, so Stach will be called upon to cover them, regardless of her shooting woes.
- In the first few games, the bench of Gonzaga provided little to nothing. The reserves are filled with the top recruiting class in Gonzaga women’s history. It’s certainly taken awhile, but the bench is starting to make more of an impact. Jenn Wirth just got her first double-double, and Jill Townsend has been steady as the first Zag off the bench. One player to keep an eye on is Louise Forsyth, a former top-50 recruit who’s only played in one game. The reasons are unknown, as women’s basketball doesn’t disclose injuries in a mainstream way that those who aren’t close to the program can tell.
The first WCC game is on Thursday, and the hopes are that Gonzaga doesn’t pull a repeat of a year ago, losing their opening games. Let’s root for a double beat-down of Pacific, by both genders.