The loss of All-Star PG Courtney Vandersloot is having its ripple effect on Gonzaga. After finishing 20th in the Associated Press poll last year, advancing to the school’s first-ever NCAA Elite Eight, the Zags weren’t ranked in the preseason poll released on Saturday.
GU received 57 votes from a national panel of 40 women’s basketball reporters. Many have questioned what the Zags will do without Vandersloot, who went on to be the third overall pick in the WNBA draft to Chicago and an All-Star. But in a recent chat with coach Kelly Graves, he was optimistic about his backcourt options, especially in transfers Taelor Karr (Kansas State) and Haiden Palmer (Oregon State).
The Zags also have a talented returnee in senior Katelan Redmon, who averaged 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in helping the U.S. place seventh at the Pan Am Games in Mexico earlier this month.
Baylor topped the AP poll while the Pac-12 was represented by Stanford (fifth), UCLA (22nd) and Southern California (23rd). The Cardinal feature six freshman while the Bruins have a new coach in Cori Close.
Texas A&M;, the defending NCAA champions, are ranked sixth. The Aggies received one first-place vote.
“We don’t mind being where we’re at,” Texas A&M;coach Gary Blair told the Associated Press.
The biggest diss probably wasn’t the Aggies. Or even beloved Connecticut being ranked fourth despite returning four starters and having a run of 51 weeks at the top position. No, Xavier’s plummet from fifth in the nation to unranked, garnering just six votes, could be a slap to what former coach Kevin McGuff built at the small Jesuit school.
The Musketeers also weren’t picked to win the Atlantic-10 Conference, that honor went to Dayton and Temple, the first tie for the conference preseason poll. Xavier has won the past four A-10 tourney titles and was undefeated in league play the past two seasons. But Xavier lost top players in Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, who were drafted in the WNBA first-round, and two members of the coaching staff.
McGuff and former XU assistant Mike Neighbors are currently at Washington, which hasn’t been ranked since 2001. And it appears he’ll have a rough beginning, picked by coaches to finish 10th in the preseason Pac-12 poll and losing leading scorer Kristi Kingma (right ACL) for the season.
For the complete list of how the individual conferences are fared, click here.
*PHOTO CREDIT: G Taelor Karr looks for a pass at Gonzaga practice by Christopher Anderson/The Spokesman-Review