So far, so good for the Gonzaga women.
They’re 9-2 overall and 4-0 in the West Coast Conference going into Saturday’s big home game against Portland.
They’re also ranked 21st in this week’s Associated Press poll and 24th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET rankings, a primary tool to select and seed prospective NCAA Tournament teams.
“Controlling what we can control,” as GU coach Lisa Fortier has been saying since before the season began.
There’s still no controlling COVID-19, however. Ten months after it wiped out the NCAA Tournament, the virus continues to force cancellations and postponements.
It was no surprise, then, that ESPN posted a story that included not one but three hypothetical brackets of varying sizes – because you never know.
Having already decided to hold this year’s tournament in one location (probably San Antonio), the NCAA is hoping for a 64-team bracket.
If that’s the case, GU easily makes the field. ESPN’s Charlie Crème has the Zags as a No. 6 seed, facing a No. 11 Rice team that would be playing in its backyard.
A win would set up an intriguing matchup with No. 3 seed Oregon, which is led by former GU coach Kelly Graves.
A 48-team bracket would be similar. A sixth-seeded GU would face 11th-seeded Stephen F. Austin, then take on the Ducks (the latter having received a bye.)
But what if COVID continues to rage, though not enough to cancel the tournament outright? ESPN’s final scenario, a 16-team bracket, would leave the Zags with no margin for error.
That would be a tough blow, especially after the Zags lost a near-certain chance to host tournament games last March.
GU hopes it won’t come to that, but there’s another factor the Zags can’t control: the West Coast Conference’s weakness. As of Wednesday, the Zags are 41st in RPI, but the WCC is ranked only 10th, and seven of its 10 members are ranked in the bottom half of Division I.
Typically, GU schedules at least a few top-tier nonconference opponents. That plan was shredded by COVID, however, which means that WCC games will comprise a larger share of its schedule.
GU’s strength of schedule, rated 104th, will surely drop in the next two months.
“This season has given us a lot of obstacles,” senior Jenn Wirth said last weekend. “We get to practice and play here every day, and we’re grateful for that.”
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