Suddenly this Gonzaga women’s team is beginning to look at lot like the Zags of two years ago.
GU has a 12-game winning streak, an impressive nonconference resume and a West Coast Conference regular-season title in its sights.
The 2014-15 team – coach Lisa Fortier’s first season as head coach – also wound up in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament but not before sweating out Selection Monday following a loss in the WCC semifinals.
In fact, the Zags were so unsure of earning a bid, they met behind closed doors for the bracket unveiling.
Will it be the same this year, should the Zags stumble in the regular season or the WCC tournament? Quite possibly.
The 2014-15 team was 40th in the Rating Percentage Index going into the selection day. This one is only 65th despite some quality nonconference wins over the likes of Stanford (currently 11th in RPI and tied atop the Pac-12 standings) and Northwestern (57th).
Two of the Zags’ four losses were against Florida State (sixth in RPI) and Michigan (31st). However, the other two came in the opening week of WCC play against Pepperdine (292nd) and Pacific (218th).
Those losses sent GU off the cliff in the RPI, from 69th to 131st. It’s been a slow climb back.
Fortier and her players are in one-game-at-a-time mode, but RPI is always in the back of their minds.
Asked to sell her team to a would-be selection committee, Fortier said, “We have some big wins.
“We went out and scheduled some big games and we beat teams some people didn’t think we could beat. I think this team has shown it can beat almost anyone.”
On paper, this year’s squad compares well against the 2014-15 squad, which was 23-6 going into Selection Monday. It faced only two ranked teams, beating No. 22 Dayton but falling to No. 17 Iowa. GU also lost to American and Washington State, along with WCC foes Pacific and San Diego.
This year’s team is 21-4 overall and 12-2 in the WCC against a tougher nonconference schedule.
So why does it rank 25 spots lower than the 2014-15 squad?
GU’s biggest problem is the company it keeps. Two years ago, the WCC ranked 10th in RPI among 32 conference nationwide. Now it’s down to 14th. Its strength of schedule is even lower, at 15th.
Seven of the 10 WCC programs are 150th or worse in RPI, but there’s nothing GU can do about that.
“Your conference is your conference,” Fortier said.
Her players try not to live in the world of what-if, especially since they still control their destiny.
“We have some really good wins, but the most important thing is to look at ourselves,” guard Emma Stach said. “It’s only on us – it doesn’t matter is we play well in the conference and not well in the conference tournament.
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