#35 Gonzaga Women's Basketball Preview

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #35
Conference Rank: #1 West Coast
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The Gonzaga women’s basketball program had an epic run to the Elite Eight, capturing the hearts of Spokane and hoops fans nationwide. They took down giants like UCLA and Louisville, and gave Stanford a hard battle with the Cardinal wearing the Bulldogs down in the end. Coach Kelly Graves was courted by the University of Washington in their search for a new coach last offseason. However, Graves did not leave for the bigger BCS stage. He stayed where he was happy and where he has built a lasting program that will be very dominant within the West Coast Conference, even with the addition of BYU, for a long time to come.

2010-11: 31-5, 14-0
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kelly Graves (228-119 at Gonzaga, 294-145 overall)

Who’s Out:
Courtney VanderSloot and Janelle Bekkering combined for nearly 31 points and 11 assists per contest. VanderSloot, the 2010-11 Nancy Lieberman Award Winner, was the third overall pick in the WNBA Draft to the Chicago Sky. Bekkering provided balance for Gonzaga from the perimeter with a team high 51 three- pointers last season.

Who’s In:
Keani Albanez, a 5-10 guard out of Santa Barbara, will be counted on to fill some of the huge void left by Courtney Vandersloot. Albanez was ranked by some recruiting services and she fits the Gonzaga mold as someone who should steadily develop into a force as her career evolves. Taelor Karr, a 5-8 guard, transferred from Kansas State and is eligible to play this season for the Bulldogs.  She had started 29 games for Kansas State last season so this is a great pickup by Gonzaga. Haiden Palmer, a transfer from Oregon State who was on the All-Pac-10 Freshman team before transferring and sitting out last season, is also eligible.

Who to Watch:
Kayla Standish returns as the heir apparent to the scoring leadership throne for Coach Graves. A projected first round WNBA draft pick by College Sports Madness, Standish can do it all.  She can score from anywhere on the floor, crash the boards and control the paint by blocking shots as her 59 blocked shots last season prove. If she gets her turnover numbers more balanced, she will become even more dangerous. Katelan Redmon also returns giving the Bulldogs very explosive offensive capabilities. Even more important will be her strong senior leadership that will help transfers like Karr and Palmer, likely starters in the backcourt, step right in and carry the load for the Bulldogs.

Final Projection:
A very difficult nonconference schedule awaits Gonzaga with a road trip to Stanford, Georgia in Vegas and a potential sleeper team in Dayton in the same tournament.  Another dynamic showdown will take place on December 4th when USC, who went to the WNIT finals last year, travels to the Kennel to battle the Bulldogs. Gonzaga won’t sneak up on anyone anymore. You also don’t easily replace the over 2,000 points and 1,000 plus assists from Courtney Vandersloot. But like the men’s team at Gonzaga, Coach Graves has built a total program and with WNBA caliber players like Kayla Standish, the Bullldogs should be peaking come March like they have the past couple of seasons. The league is still theirs for the taking even with BYU coming into play this season. A road game at BYU on February 9th is the biggest roadblock for Gonzaga if they are to run the table again in the West Coast Conference.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Haiden Palmer, Redshirt sophomore, Guard, DNP last season (Oregon State transfer)
Taelor Karr, Junior, Guard, DNP last season (Kansas State transfer)
Katelan Redmon, Senior, Guard/Forward, 16.7 ppg
Kayla Standish, Senior, Forward, 17.1 PPG
Kelly Bowen, Senior, Forward, 4.6 PPG

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#10 Kayla Standish
#42 Katelan Redmon