It’s never too early for some bracketology, especially when your favorite team is sitting atop the NCAA Tournament bubble.
In the bracket posted this week by ESPN.com, Charlie Creme has the Gonzaga women – with a photo of senior guard Kayleigh Truong – as his “Last Team In.”
Creme’s bracket also has the Zags making a little history, as a No. 11 seed against UCLA in a First Four game as the NCAA expands to 68 teams.
Of course, that means almost nothing in the last week of January. The Zags still have up to 13 more regular-season games left, plus the West Coast Conference Tournament, to nail down an at-large berth.
Of course, winning in Las Vegas would leave the argument moot, but what if the Zags fall short?
Looming large in all of this is BYU, which was picked to win the WCC after several key players elected to take advantage of the NCAA’s offer of an extra year of eligibility amid the pandemic.
The Cougars haven’t disappointed. This week they’re ranked 14th in the NCAA’s NET ranking – high enough for Creme to pencil them in as a No. 4 seed.
For Gonzaga, that presents an opportunity as well as a big challenge. BYU visits Spokane on Feb. 5 in what for GU could be one of the most consequential women’s games in recent Kennel history.
“Now they can help us,” coach Lisa Fortier said last month after what so far has been the low point of the season – the loss at UC Davis (currently 145th in NET).
A win over BYU would give GU a quality win that would presumably move them up one seed and provide some cushion against another bad loss.
A loss to the Cougars, however, would be their fifth of the season, with a tough rematch at BYU two weeks later.
Assuming they lose that one but take care of business against the rest of the conference, the Zags would head to Vegas at 25-6 overall and probably still on the bubble.
Two more factors are working in GU’s favor.
In November, the Zags throttled Utah in the Rainbow Wahine Showcase. Since then, the Utes have more than held their own and sit at 19th in the NET rankings.
If Utah can surprise a few teams in the rugged Pac-12, the Zags would have another quality win come March. Creme is high on the Utes, penciling them as a No. 10 seed.
More help could still come from Washington State (66th in NET and among Creme’s “Next Four Out”) but with plenty of room to move up.
Meanwhile, the WCC is having a good year – thanks mainly to BYU and the Zags.
San Diego and Portland, however, are also in the top 100 in NET, helping the conference to sit at ninth overall in RPI.
That’s good news for everyone in the WCC, which typically sits a few spots lower than that.
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