The Associated Press poll was released Friday and Gonzaga is ranked 25th. The Zags return 12 players, including four starters, from its squad that finished 27-6 overall, 15-1 in the West Coast Conference last season. It won its ninth-straight WCC title and made its fifth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags are predicted to win the WCC, again, this season.
I had the Zags ranked 25th, too, but will admit I don’t even give much weight to the rankings. There are already some key injuries and untested returns that could make a huge difference in how the season begins for some of the ranked teams. But below is the way I’m starting my season outlook and you can keep track of all 40 media members’ votes throughout the season.
In our state, preseason predictions are promising. The NCAA tournament sites were announced earlier and Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena was selected as one of the 16 cities for open-round play. And it looks like one of the state’s five Division I programs will be seeded at UW’s host site. Along with Gonzaga’s conference prediction, Eastern Washington is predicted to win the Big Sky and Seattle U is projected to repeat its regular-season title in the Western Athletic Conference. Washington was pegged fourth in the Pac-12 while Washington State is motivated by being snubbed, again, and picked to finish ninth in the conference.
UW is the most intriguing of the bunch given coach Mike Neighbors is in his first season as a D-I coach and taking over for Kevin McGuff, who built a lot of momentum in his short stint on Montlake. Then there’s All-American rookies Kelsey Plum and Katie Collier. Both impressed against Concordia on Thursday, but that was expected. The challenge begins Nov. 8 at Saint Mary’s in the nonconference opener.
“My defense was bad, I can say that right now,” said Plum after the game. A 5-foot-9 starting PG, she was a deep reserve in winning gold with USA Basketball’s U19 squad this summer.
“I really need to work on my defense, especially when we play more teams with quicker guards that can move the ball on their own and shoot,” she continued. “I really need to pick that up and I really need to get more consistent on my threes and if I could only make a layup. But that’s individual. With the team, being able to control the tempo and getting people involved and seeing the spacing mismatches — I have light-years to go.”
My Preseason Rankings
8. North Carolina
10. Notre Dame
13. Texas A&M
16. Michigan State
17. Penn State
18. Oklahoma State
20. South Carolina
23. Green Bay