#33 Gonzaga Women's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #33
Conference Rank: #1 West Coast
#33 Gonzaga Women's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview
Gonzaga Team Page


Gonzaga dominated the West Coast Conference last year, finishing with a 16-2 mark in conference play. There was a stretch from December 20th to February 19th where they did not lose a game. The regular season, and the WCC, didn’t end particularly well, but the Bulldogs were ready for the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs were only given an 11 seed in the tournament, but they upset George Washington and Oregon State and nearly beat Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen.  

2014-15 Record: 26-9, 15-3
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lisa Fortier
Coach Record: 26-8 at Gonzaga, 28-6 overall

Seniors Georgia Stirton and Elle Tinkle will be the new leaders of the backcourt. Stirton emerged as a solid point guard last season, dishing out 3.1 assists. Stirton only averaged 5.7 points per game, but she has enough of an outside shot to keep the opposition honest. Without Sunny Greinacher and Keani Albanez, Stirton could take on more of a scoring role. But it is Tinkle who will carry most of the load. The 6-2 guard can shoot over small defenders and dribble around most other 6-2 defenders. Tinkle averaged 11.7 points per game, but she was playing much better down the stretch and can be a 15 to 18 point per game scorer. The other returning starter is 6-5 senior center Shelby Cheslek. She is a decent enough interior scorer, but her true strength is on the glass where she averaged 8.2 rebounds per game. Emma Wolfram is another 6-5 center who is effective on the glass and on the defensive end. If Coach Lisa Fortier wanted to play big, she could play those two together. Either way, there is size and depth in the frontcourt.

There are a couple question areas, most notably at shooting guard. Emma Stach showed potential as a freshman, averaging 4.1 points per game. She can knock down shots and could turn into a double digit scorer. The potential eligibility of Makenlee Williams, a transfer from Utah State, could be huge for Gonzaga. Pending NCAA review, the 5-8 guard could be eligible for the second semester. She is a big time scoring threat if available. The frontcourt will need some depth and it could come from Shaniqua Nilles. The senior forward can do the dirty work in the paint, but is not much of a scoring threat.

Final Projection:
Finding scorers could be what haunts Gonzaga. Tinkle can score in bunches, but players like Stach and Stirton need to add more scoring punch to the perimeter. The offense can work through Cheslek in the paint, and they should, but that will give open looks to the guards on the perimeter and they must knock down shots. We will learn a lot about Gonzaga early in the season. They play Stanford, West Virginia, USC and North Carolina in November. If the Bulldogs can compete against that tough competition, they will be the team to beat come conference play. If they develop during that stretch, this is a team that has the potential to make another nice tournament run.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Georgia Stirton, Senior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Emma Stach, Sophomore, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Elle Tinkle, Senior, Guard, 11.7 points per game
Shaniqua Nilles, Senior, Forward, 5.1 points per game
Shelby Cheslek, Senior, Center, 7.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.7 (44th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.8 (117, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.4 (42, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 37.4 (55, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.2 (91, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.6 (34, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 77.3 (4, 1)
Rebound Margin: 5.9 (37, 3)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (96, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 16.6 (202, 7)


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