Women's college basketball preview: Can anyone challenge Gonzaga for the WCC crown?
The West Coast Conference sent just one team, Gonzaga, to the NCAA tournament last season and the Bulldogs are the preseason favorites to win the conference again next spring. Can Saint Mary's, BYU or even San Diego make a push to unseat Gonzaga atop the standings, or at least build a resume worthy of an at-large bid to the Big Dance in March?
Here is our WCC women's basketball preview.
Best player: Cassie Broadhead Devashrayee, BYU
As a junior, Cassie Broadhead Devashrayee finished in the top 15 in the WCC in almost every major statistical category. With per-game averages of 17.8 points, 4.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, the Glendale, Ariz., native won WCC Player of the Year honors last spring.
|Cassie Broadhead Devashrayee's 2016-17 Statistics|
|Free throw percentage||83.8%||5th|
|Field goal percentage||48.0%||6th|
She scored in double figures in 30 of BYU's 32 games, including 14 occasions in which she scored at least 20 points. She's also one of the better defenders in the conference, finishing in the top 15 in both steals and blocks last season.
Best team: Gonzaga
After sweeping the WCC regular-season and tournament titles in 2017, Gonzaga was picked as the preseason favorite by the conference's head coaches. The Bulldogs have a pair of juniors who were named to the All-WCC Preseason Team in guard Laura Stockton and forward Jill Barta.
Stockton, the daughter for former Gonzaga and Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton, averaged eight points and 4.3 assists per game as a sophomore. Barta averaged 16.8 points and six boards per game. The Bulldogs return two other players – senior guard Emma Stach and redshirt junior guard Chandler Smith – who played in every game last season.
Sleeper team: San Diego
San Diego finished 7th in the WCC last season with a 7-11 record in conference play and 14-16 mark overall. However, the Toreros return their top-three scorers, including preseason All-WCC honoree Maya Hood, who led the team in scoring (18.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) before suffering a season-ending injury just nine games into the year.
With Hood sidelined, guard Aubrey Ward-El (11.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and forward Sydney Williams (9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) carried San Diego. The Toreros were picked fourth in the WCC preseason coaches poll, so expect San Diego to take a step forward this season.
Best freshman: Louise Forsyth, Gonzaga
Louise Forsyth has great height for a guard at 6-feet tall and she excels as an off-ball guard who can drive to the rim or use her shooting touch to hit a jumper. At Brookswood Secondary in British Columbia, Canada, she averaged 31 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game.
Forsyth played for the U16 Canadian National Team, so she has experience in big games against high-level competition.