As the regular season concluded we saw a handful of good games. This is a good sign for the tournament which starts on Thursday. Here’s a preview of the first round games and a little insight on what to expect this year in Vegas.
Pepperdine (9) vs Pacific (8)
Both teams are in the midst of lengthy losing streaks, so come Thursday, one of them will get their first win in weeks. Pepperdine is coming off of a big game (even though they lost) against San Francisco, so look for them to try and carry the momentum from this game into the tournament. The Waves and Tigers split the series this season, and a total of only two points separated the teams during these match-ups.
Pepperdine: Gonzaga, San Francisco
Pacific: Gonzaga, San Francisco
Who to watch
Pepperdine: Allie Green stepped up her game as the regular season ended. She had a 30 point game last week and is coming off of a 22 point performance. Yasmine Robinson-Bacote has been a steady scorer for the Waves all season. In the last week of regular season she had her worst game of the year (0 points) and her best game of the year (29 points). Sydney Bordonaro will also be a factor for the Waves. She has had a very inconsistent year in conference play, bouncing from scoring in double figures to not scoring at all, yet she is still the teams third leading scorer. If these three can all play well and score in bunches, look for them to be a Cinderella.
Pacific: Geanna Luaulu-Summers, Desire Finnie, and Chelsea Lidy have been far more productive for the Tigers this season than the rest of the team. They are averaging 14.5, 10, and 9.4 points respectively. A key to the Tigers success will be their long bench. The Tigers have a lengthy 13 man rotation with only one player playing under 10 minutes. If the big three for the Tigers can produce like they have been, and the bench can add some productivity, this game will be a shoot out.
My Pick: Pepperdine
The winner of this game will play Gonzaga.
San Francisco (4) vs LMU (5)
The reigning WCC Champions are coming in this year at the 4 seed looking to defend their title. The Dons first challenge will come from the LMU Lions. While San Francisco has been extremely dominant on their home court, they have a dismal record on the road. Will they be able to win games on a neutral court and get to the title game for the third straight year?
LMU: BYU, St. Mary’s
San Francisco: BYU, Gonzaga
Who to watch
LMU: Leslie Lopez-Wood and Jackie Johnson have been the leaders for the Lions this season. Johnson is first in the league in blocks and third in the league in scoring. The Lions also have Andee Velasco who is leading the league in assists with over 6 per game. If these three play a good game, they could give San Francisco a run for their money.
San Francisco: Anna Seilund and Rachel Howard are spearheading this highly successful Dons offense. In the last 5 games the two have combined for 212 points. Howard is coming off of a career high 37 points and Seilund is coming off of a 17 point game. If these two can stay hot, especially from 3, look for San Francisco to make another deep run in the tournament.
My Pick: San Francisco
The winner of this game will face the winner of the Gonzaga vs winner of 8/9.
San Diego (7) vs Portland (10)
Both teams have struggled this season. San Diego was on par for a big season before leader Maya Hood went out with a season ending injury. While Portland once again finds themselves at the bottom of the league. Just when it looked like Portland was going to end league with only two wins, they picked up two huge wins against LMU and Pacific, and stayed close with BYU and San Francisco until the end of those games. Portland seems to be in a rhythm and could potentially pull off an upset in Vegas.
San Diego: Saint Mary’s,
Who to watch
San Diego: The starters on San Diego are all scoring in bunches, led by Aubrey Ward-El, but their bench production has been slim to none. If Ward-El, Woodward, Hamilton, Williams, and Buhr can stay out of foul trouble (which has proven to be a difficult thing for them to do) they could make a run in the tournament.
Portland: Kaylie Van Loo is far and above a majority of her teammates in many stats categories. She leads the team in points, free throws, minutes, field goals, assists, turnovers, and steals. If Van Loo gets support from Slaga, Blades, Spencer, Gray, and Mattson, Portland could have a chance at winning this game.
My Pick: San Diego
The winner of this game will play BYU.
Saint Mary’s (3) vs Santa Clara (6)
These two teams recently met in the season finale of the regular season, and the game was all Saint Mary’s. They clicked on every level while Santa Clara struggled mightily. Santa Clara landed a big win in the tournament last year over Gonzaga, and Saint Mary’s made it to the semi finals before losing to eventual champions San Francisco.
Saint Mary’s: San Francisco x2, BYU
Santa Clara: BYU, San Francisco
Who to watch
Saint Mary’s: While people often see that Saint Mary’s is led by Stella Beck and Carly Turner, the Gaels are actually the most balanced team in the league. While Beck and Turner are huge contributors, the Gaels also receive noticeable contributions from Devon Brookshire, Devyn Galland, Megan McKay, and Sydney Raggio. Galland and Beck are also two of the scrappiest and fearless players in the league. Both are always diving for loose balls and always have their foot on the gas pedal. Look for Saint Mary’s to utilize their ball handling ability, combined with their size and balance to make a deep run in the tournament.
Santa Clara: The Broncos have 4 players averaging double figures this season, Emily Wolph, Lori Parkinson, Marie Bertholdt, and Morgan McGwire. Emily Wolph is deadly from long range, shooting over 36% on the season, and her shooting combined with Parkinson and Bertholdt inside creates a very balanced attack for the Broncos.
My Pick: Saint Mary’s
The winner of this game will play the winner of BYU vs 7/10.
With first round byes, Gonzaga and BYU will wait and find out who their opponent will be. The Cougars are coming off of a big win against the Zags in Provo, and the Zags are coming off of one of the best seasons they have had in years. Will either of the top two seeds be able to take home the title this year?
With a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line, the stakes are higher than ever going into the tournament this season. Here is the player from each team that could make or break the teams success in Vegas.
Pepperdine: Allie Green
Pacific: Geanna Luaulu-Summers
San Francisco: Rachel Howard
LMU: Leslie Lopez-Wood
San Diego: Aubrey Ward-El
Portland: Kaylie Van Loo
Saint Mary’s: Carly Turner
Santa Clara: Lori Parkinson
BYU: Cassie Broadhead
Gonzaga: Jill Barta
Injury Watch: Emma Wolfram (GON), Claudia Price (USF), and Cassie Broadhead (BYU) all took blows to the head during the final week of regular season play. All 3 should have to pass concussion protocol before appearing in the tournament. Paige Fecske (PEP) has missed the last two games for the Waves.