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WCC WBB Preview: Pacific

up next, let’s take a look at the team from the first university in the state of California

Last season, the Pacific Tigers finished sixth in the WCC with 15-17 (8-10) record and have still never qualified for the NCAA Tournament. However, the Preseason WCC Coaches Poll predicted them to make a turn-around as they were voted third with 41 votes, tied with Santa Clara. Part of the reason for this selection likely owes to the fact that Pacific didn’t lose anyone from last season’s team while also adding 6’4” sophomore Lauren Glazier from Washington State.

At this stage in the season, the Tigers hold an 8-4 record with their biggest wins coming against Butler, Temple, and Long Beach State, although two of those wins have come against non-D1 opponents so their NET ranking only stands at #147, which qualifies as 4th in the WCC at current time. When looking at their loses, none are particularly bad as losing to Washington and Arizona State was likely expected while the game against UC Irvine was close. The only defeat that looks ugly came on the road against Northern Arizona when the Tigers lost 98-65, their largest margin of the season thus far.

As a team, Pacific currently ranks second in points per game (73.9) behind Gonzaga and they’re listed pace leads the WCC at 76.9. This likely plays a part in the team having five players averaging over 10 points per game heading into conference play. While I haven’t watched Pacific this year, given their high ranking in two point attempts (47.8 per game; 22nd nationally) and low number of three pointers (just 14.3 attempts per game; 327th nationally) in conjunction with their pace, I’d expect this team to press the ball in transition and try to catch opponents off guard. This may also be a reason as to how the Tigers currently lead the WCC in the percentage of points coming at the free throw line (20.9%) with defenders playing catch-up and making making mistakes.

Defensively, Pacific isn’t nearly as stout as Portland with their current per game average being 68.8 allowed, a number that has them ranked as the second worst defense in the WCC. The only real number that stands out for this team here is their 26.8 defensive rebounds per game that ranks them 104th nationally.

The WCC Preseason Team selection, senior guard Liz Smith, leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game. She has a fairly balanced shot selection with 5.7 two point attempts and 4.8 three point attempts per game, although she’s clearly better inside the arc where she’s shooting 51.5% compared to just 27.6% from beyond. She also gets to the charity stripe an amazing 6 times per game where she converts 87.5% of those attempts. For comparison, Yvonne Ejim leads the Zags with just under 3 FT attempts per game.

Despite only playing 19 minutes per game as she missed the first four games to start the season, junior center Elizabeth Elliot is just narrowly trailing her teammate, Smith, with 14.7 points per game on an impressive 60.3% shooting efficiency. She’ll make her presence known inside as she has yet to shoot a three pointer this season and leads her team with 6.6 rebounds per game.

Junior guard, Anaya James checks in third on her team with 11.8 points per game, but she does more than score as indicated by her 5.3 rebounds and, team-leading, 4.9 assists per game. She doesn’t shoot from three nearly as often as Smith, but she does attempt a little over 3 per game and converts slightly better at a 31.6% clip. Expect to see her and Smith on the court nearly the entire game as they average 34.2 and 35.9 minutes per game, respectively.

Can Pacific’s pace overcome their less than ideal defensive stats in the WCC come 2024? Hit the comments below to voice your thoughts.