The lead item for this week's women's basketball notebook is Gonzaga's trip to Las Vegas, where the Bulldogs will gamble that they can keep up with a pair of Top 15 teams.
I've filed way too many notes to get into Wednesday's paper but you can read them all below.
By Dave Trimmer
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Finals weeks may be almost over but the tests aren’t.
Starting with No. 7 Duke at No. 2 Stanford last night there are some pretty impressive women’s basketball matchups before Christmas. No. 3 Tennessee treks across country to face the Cardinal on Saturday.
But for one gathering, nothing is as stellar as putting No. 6 Baylor, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 14 Arizona State in Las Vegas with little ol’ Gonzaga.
“It’s definitely a tournament everybody’s going to be watching,” Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves said. “We obviously want to perform well because of that.”
Gonzaga plays Baylor on Saturday and A&M on Sunday at the
Holiday Hoops Classic. Both
“This is really our last opportunity to get that quality win for
our (NCAA) tournament resume,”
“It’s an opportunity to test where we are and a chance to showcase talent we do have. We have a couple of players mentioned with best in country and this is a chance to show that.”
Games like this are how
“I recruit players that want to play these kinds of games,” he said. “Every one of our players in top of the rotation was offered from BSC schools. That’s used against us … but I tell them, ‘Look who we play.’ That’s part of the reason they do come here. We have good players, I want them to see what they can do.”
Baylor offers a unique challenge in 6-foot-8 freshman phenom Brittney Griner.
“Everybody has to play a role in slowing her down,”
“We already had some experience, unfortunately it wasn’t all that positive, playing great post players with that Stanford team. At least it’s not going to be something that’s brand new to us. But there’s no question she’s something else. (And) she’s not a one person team. They have a lot of great talent. Melissa Jones is such a great shooter, you can’t sag off her.”
He hopes his long wings, posts that like to face the basket and venture outside and a great point guard can turn some of the matchups into Gonzaga’s favor.
Meanwhile, A&M presents a different challenge because of its relentless defense. The Aggies started the season unranked after losing three senior starters from last year’s team that lost to ASU in the Sweet 16.
ASU coach Charli Turner Thorn echoed
Although Thorn wasn’t sure the future of women’s basketball was above the rim she said Griner brings that element that people want to see.
“She’s great for the game,” Thorn said. “She’s a very talented, exciting player.”
She compared Griner to Candace Parker and Maya Moore as far as bringing national attention to the game.
The Sun Devils are rolling along at 7-1 with a game tonight despite losing six seniors and leading score Dymond Simon to a preseason knee injury off of last year’s Elite Eight team.
Not for one minute does Graves believe his team doesn’t belong with this group.
“We believe we belong,” he said. “The bottom line is we won’t know until we play them. I’d like to think we belong. I’m not going to shy away. I’m not going to change. Ultimately we need some of these victories. We don’t get those top 50 games. We need someone in our conference to step up and get in that upper echelon.”
The women’s game tips off at 1:35 (on KHQ and FSN) with the men
Gonzaga junior Courtney Vandersloot,
who became the 14th member of the Bulldogs’ 1,000-point club last game,
continues to lead the nation in assists at 9.7 and is second in steals at 4.5.