WCC Tournament Women’s Preview


If you don’t follow the women’s side of the WCC during the season, you are missing out. It was another stacked year in the conference with a number of stellar team battling for the top spots. And it should make for a fun time in Las Vegas. With six teams with winning record including five with 20+ wins, the WCC Tournament could be wide open. There are also major postseason implications as the five 20 win teams are all in the top 75 of the RPI currently, meaning all of them are in serious NCAA Tournament position if they can perform well in Vegas.

Let’s take a look at the contenders and how the bracket could shape as first round action begins today.

The Contenders

#1 Gonzaga: Like on the men’s side, Gonzaga rules the roost and will  be the favorite in Vegas. The defending WCC Tournament Champions won the regular season title as they rolled to a 16-2 record in conference play. Led by All-WCC First Team selections Sunny Greinacher and Elle Tinkle, the Bulldogs are deep and talented featuring the #1 offense and #2 defense in the conference. They have some of the best size in the conference, and it helps them on both ends of the floor.

However, the Bulldogs look more vulnerable than they have all season right now. After a perfect 15-0 start to WCC play, they lost two of their final three games as 2nd place San Diego and 3rd place Pacific both got to them. Both the Toreros and Tigers also have top three defenses and top five offenses, and they both had strong scoring days while shutting down Gonzaga. The Bulldogs should have no trouble in the early rounds, but they would likely have to face San Diego or Pacific in the finals which will not be an easy test.

#2 San Diego: The Toreros have been good for a number of years, but they have had a lot of trouble getting over the hump against the Gonzaga. This might be their year as they enter the tournament firing on all cylinders. They had a furious finish winning eight of their last nine games including an upset of Gonzaga to emerge from the pack and lock up the #2 seed.

The Toreros boast a balance attack with All-WCC selections Sophia Ederaine and Malina Hood balancing each other out. Ederaine is a huge presence inside and nearly averaged a double-double this year with 12.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, while Hood is a deadly sharpshooter from the outside who leads the WCC in three pointers made per game. Like the Bulldogs, they back up deep offense with a smothering defense that is best in the conference led by Ederaine who was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year after averaging a ridiculous 4.8 blocks per game.

The Toreros are one of the hottest teams right now, and they could win it all and finally break through to the NCAA Tournament after multiple NIT appearances even with a tough road that likely goes through Pacific and Gonzaga.

#3 Pacific: Speaking of the Tigers, they have a great squad again led by superstar and All-WCC selection Kendall Kenyon. One of the best forwards in the conference, Kenyon averaged a double-double this season with 13.8 points and a conference-best 11.2 rebounds per game. Like the Toreros and Bulldogs, the Tigers have a balanced attack with the #2 offense and #3 defense.

Pacific is another teaming coming into Vegas with a lot of momentum. They won seven of their final nine games, although they finished with a notable hiccup falling to San Francisco in their regular season finale. The Dons finished with a losing conference record. The Toreros and Tigers both are sitting in the 50-60 range of the RPI, so they are very motivated for a good showing in the tournament to get them into the Big Dance. The duo played two close games splitting their season series, and their potential battle in the semifinals could be one of the best games of the tournament.

#4 Saint Mary’s: The Gaels lost a lot of talent off last season’s roster, but it hasn’t affected their record as they finished tied with Pacific and reached 20 wins. They are in the bottom half of the WCC in offense, but they have some good scorers led by All-WCC selection Lauren Nicholson and her 16.8 points per game, 5th best in the conference. Continuing the theme of defense winning ballgames, the Gaels have the #4 defense right behind the three teams above them in the standings.

While they have posted a strong record thanks to easily taking care of the lower half of the WCC in most games, they have not shown much evidence they have enough to beat the top dogs. They narrowly swept San Diego by a combined 3 points over the two meetings, but they went a combined 0-4 against Pacific and Gonzaga. They have a very tough opening game against talented BYU, although they did sweep the Cougars this season. But even if they get past their first game, it’s hard to see them upsetting Gonzaga in the next round.

Just a few spots below Pacific and San Diego in the RPI, a quiet elimination in Vegas may cost them an NCAA Tournament berth as the Toreros and Tigers will likely look more impressive and force the committee to find ways to get one or both of them in leaving the Gaels out of a crowded picture.

#5 BYU: The Cougars are another team that did well but was affected by losses, most notably the departure of superstar Jennifer Hamson. That being said, they are still star studded highlighted by the duo of All-WCC selections Morgan Bailey and Lexi Eaton. They lead a top five offense as Eaton led the WCC in scoring while Bailey was 3rd in scoring and 2nd in rebounds leading to WCC Player of the Year honors. Kylie Maeda continues to be one of the best playmakers in the WCC as she led the conference in assists per game.

The Cougars are better than their seeding as much of it was due to a very cold finish. Facing the top four teams during their final stretch, the lost all four meetings with only a win over Portland in between. The struggles caused them to drop down to this #5 spot after they were in position to finish much higher. The fall led to a very tough situation as it means a first round meeting with Saint Mary’s, one of only two WCC teams to sweep them this season.

There should be a lot of offense in that game, and it could be a fun one with some top scorers on both side going at it. With their big game experience after a Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA Tournament last year, the Cougars could still beat the Gaels. Unfortunately, the next round would bring Gonzaga, the other WCC team to sweep them. Their road would probably end there, and their #75 RPI won’t get enough of a boost for a return trip to the Big Dance.

The Dark Horse

#6 San Francisco: Despite a 8-10 conference record, the Dons got some good wins and finished with an overall winning record. They have been clearly a class below the top five teams, but their finish suggested they could surprise. They got back-to-back upsets of Saint Mary’s and Pacific to finish the season, and they conveniently open against the Tigers.

The Dons have the #3 offense and #5 defense. All-WCC selection Taylor Procter will be a good test for Kenyon of Pacific with her 15.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Taj Winston will cause issues on both ends of the floor with her 11.9 points and conference-best 2.5 steals per game.

Do they have a Cinderella run in them? Even with their recent run of upsets, it’s hard to see them getting three in a row to get past Pacific, San Diego, and Gonzaga. The Tigers and Toreros have shown weaknesses however, and if they struggle a surprise finals appearance is not impossible for the Dons. But they won’t be the team to shock Gonzaga, meaning they will see their season end in Vegas as they are from a high enough RPI to make the postseason.

The Rest of the Field

With the depth of the top half of the conference, don’t expect anyone to come out nowhere. There is a huge gap between the top half and bottom half of the standings, and the remaining teams are all well under .500 including three who only mustered single digits wins. But still with half of the conference turning in a elite showing this season, there will be plenty of action even without any lower-tier teams breaking out.