To start the Gonzaga Bulldogs women’s season, you will hear Jill Barta name dropped, a lot. That is what happens when a player of her caliber departs school early.
On the basketball front, the women’s squad lost their leading scorer from the past three seasons. When the game was on the line, Barta was the go-to scorer. When the team needed a vocal leader, Barta was that voice. It does a disservice to the rest of the squad to say the Zags lost their heart and soul, but they lost a huge chunk of their identity.
That is the cruel case of college basketball, however, and the Zags are more than ready to make another run into the NCAA Tournament. Unlike the men’s team, however, this could be a theoretically arguable point. The women’s squad secured seven of 10 first place votes during the WCC Media Day. The Saint Mary’s Gaels are chomping at our heels, and there is a big question remaining for this squad.
The offseason losses of Barta and Emma Stach hurt, because those two players were the best shooters on the Bulldogs. Chandler Smith, although a dynamic and entertaining talent, only shot 37.5 percent from the floor last season. Laura Stockton has never been able to establish a consistent three-point threat in college, same with Jessie Loera.
This is an issue. There is no doubt about Zykera Rice’s tremendous talents up front. She is one of the top players in the conference and one of the better forwards in the nation. But if opposing defenses do not have to respect the Zags’ outside shots, Rice will have a lot less room to work.
If the Zags put in this work during the offseason, than all is good. If not, however, things can get a little bit iffy. The Zags have some solid non-conference slate, and like the men’s, it is a bit brutal, highlighted by a couple of games against two no name teams Stanford and Notre Dame.
In some years, the WCC lucks out and sends two teams to the NCAA Tournament. If that isn’t the case, however, it’ll be on the Zags to take care of business during the regular season. For that to happen, the shots will need to fall.