If you want to see how large the talent gap is in the WCC in women’s basketball, you just have to look at the All WCC Preseason Team. Of the teams picked No. 1-5 by the coaches, they have nine out of the 10 All WCC Preseason picks. Only Chelsey Gispson, a junior guard out of Loyola Marymount, is the outsider.
And Loyola Marymount is tied for No. 6. Much like their male counterparts, the bottom of the WCC has struggled to put together consistent teams. Let’s take a look at the bottom half of the WCC in this 2019-20 preview.
#10: Portland Pilots
It is hard to be looking too far north considering the Pilots weren’t very good last year, and lost their two top scorers in Julie Spencer and Darian Slaga. The Pilots finished in seventh place in conference play with a 5-13 record and are pretty firmly considered the worst team in the league by the coaches.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. Australian-born guard Haylee Andrews put together a nice freshman year campaign, averaging 11.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, solid enough stats to earn her All Freshman honors last season. The supporting cast is just not quite there yet to help push her over the hump. The Pilots only shot 41 percent as a team from the floor and don’t have any consistent long range shooters to be a real threat if they fall behind.
San Francisco was rather terrible last season, finishing with just a 7-24 record overall and a 2-16 record in conference. Senior guard Shannon Powell was a nice spot, but a frighteningly youthful team was on display for much of last season. Now, those kids are a year older, but they still aren’t going to be hitting the stride necessary to compete with the likes of Gonzaga, BYU, or Saint Mary’s, yet.
The Dons international flavor makes for an interesting squad, however. Sophomore Polish forward Julia Nielacana averaged 9.1 points per game last season. They also have a big addition in graduate transfer forward Mikayla Williams, who was an NCAA D-II All American last season.
The building blocks are there for the Dons, but this year is not the year. They do have the talent to make some surprises and upsets, and very well could end the season higher in the WCC rankings.
Like their Northern California counterparts, San Diego also finished with a 2-16 conference record. The coaches have a much higher expectation, firmly planting San Diego in the No. 8 spot. The reason for slight optimism is that the Toreros are essentially returning their entire squad from last season.
Now of course, that begs the question, if last season’s squad wasn’t that good, will it make much of a difference this year? San Diego only averaged 61 points per game last season and had the worst scoring margin in the conference, outscored by 9.9 points per game. Growth comes at incremental steps, however. After finishing near the bottom of the WCC last season, San Diego probably won’t be there this year, and that counts for something.
#6: Pepperdine Waves
The Waves tied with Loyola Marymount for No. 6 in the standings, or No. 7 if you view it as a glass half empty kind of way. Things are trending downwards this year after the most successful season in school history. Pepperdine finished third last season in the WCC and won the first postseason games in the modern era.
However, in a surprise move, head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones stepped down and headed east to become an assistant coach at Syracuse University. New head coach Kristen Dowling will have her work cut out for her as she tries to replace the now graduated WCC Player of the Year Yasmine Robinson-Bacote.
The Lions are always going to be a threat because of junior guard Chelsey Gipson. The 5’7 guard took over the squad last year as a sophomore, leading the Lions with 16.1 points per game, shooting a respectable 42 percent from the floor. Loyola lost second leading scorer Gabby Green to graduation, but forward Jasmine Jones remains to help out down low.
The Lions finished middle of the pack last season, with a 10-8 record. LMU retained just enough pieces from last year’s squad that they aren’t fully moving backwards, but it will be a question in how they replace the production of Green and senior rebounding machine Bree Alford.