The Gonzaga women have three experienced and dynamic senior captains this season. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more competitive point guard in the nation than Laura Stockton. You won’t find a more versatile player in the WCC than Chandler Smith. And you won’t find many forwards on the West Coast more athletic than Zykera Rice.
The three of them have had solid careers at Gonzaga, but there’s one thing missing from the resume: an NCAA Tournament victory. It may sound surprising, but the trio has not won an NCAA tournament game in the three years they’ve been at Gonzaga. Their first year in the program, they were relegated to the WNIT after a disappointing conference season. The last two years, they made the Big Dance, but were ousted in the first round.
So what is considered the best-case scenario for the 2018-2019 Gonzaga Women? Finally delivering that big March victory. Here’s how the pieces can fall into place to get that done.
First and foremost, they need to develop a consistent perimeter threat. Rice and the Wirth sisters will provide plenty of ammo in the frontcourt. But after graduating their best two shooters, the Zags will need someone to step up and hit open shots. No player on their roster shot above 30 percent from beyond the arc last season. Chandler Smith and Louise Forsyth are probably their two best pure shooters, as evidenced by their very competitive three-point contest at FenFest. The offense needs to find ways to get them open looks.
Secondly, the team needs to buy in to the new offensive style. Coach Lisa Fortier has openly expressed the desire to be more up-tempo this season. They have multiple players (Stockton, Lorea, Smith) who can lead the break and they have bigs who excel at running the floor. One way that teams can mask a lack of shooting is by beating other teams down the court for easy buckets. Gonzaga will look to do that a lot this season.
Gonzaga’s strong suit should be their defense. They are going to force plenty of misses with their length and athleticism. They need to rebound those misses. If there’s one thing that Coach Fortier has worried about during these early practices, it’s the ability to rebound.
Basketball is a simple game sometimes. When analyzing a team, it’s easy to say “hey, if they do x, y and z, they’ll be just fine.” But that’s exactly what we’re doing here. And it is absolutely easier said than done. Make threes, rebound the ball, and buy in. If they accomplish those three things, they can deliver an NCAA Tournament win to a group of seniors who so greatly deserve one.