The two must-haves this week for Gonzaga women’s basketball fans? Tissues and a calculator.
The tissues will come in handy on Saturday, when three Zag seniors – Laura Stockton, Zykera Rice and Chandler Smith – will play their final game at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Well, perhaps their final game at the Kennel.
That’s where the calculators come in, since GU has a solid chance to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games next month.
The Zags need to finish the job by winning at home this week against third-place Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, then win the WCC Tournament.
Even that might not be enough, because there are many variables. One is their strength of schedule, which took another hit last week. Another is the national scene, where plenty of mid-range Power-5 teams are chasing high seeds, possibly at GU’s expense.
With two games left in the regular season and perhaps two more in the West Coast Conference tournament, the Zags are 25-3 overall and holding steady at 13th in the Rating Percentage Index.
They’re also 16th in the Associated Press rankings, and already a lock for the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme.
“They already have put together NCAA Tournament-worthy seasons,” Creme said as he listed the Zags with other mid-major standouts Drake, South Dakota State, South Dakota and Central Michigan.
Of course, the Zags are hoping for more, and why not? For the third straight week, Creme has GU pegged as a 4 seed, hosting UC Davis in a foursome that also features Texas A&M and Boise State.
RealTimeRPI.com also is keeping GU in Spokane on the 4 line, facing Stephen F. Austin in a group that also includes fifth-seeded Florida State and 12 seed Miami of Ohio.
However, College Sports Madness continues to put the Zags on the 6 line, traveling across the country to play in a foursome hosted by South Carolina. Their prediction has GU facing 11th-seeded Kansas State in the first round.
That prediction isn’t too far-fetched, considering GU’s strength of schedule dropped another 10 spots to 68th after wins at Santa Clara (166th in RPI) and USF (243rd).
Only three weeks ago, GU’s strength of schedule was ranked 39th.
Meanwhile, the Zags are “just trying to get better,” coach Lisa Fortier said.
Good thing, as they still haven’t clinched a bye into the semifinals of the WCC tournament. Should they lose twice this week and Pepperdine win twice (while BYU wins at least one game), the Waves and Cougars would get the byes.
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