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Gonzaga women picked to win WCC for eighth straight season

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 27, 2020

Senior guard Jill Townsend, left, the West Coast Conference’s reigning player of the year, and senior forward Jenn Wirth were named Tuesday to the WCC’s 10-player preseason team.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
Senior guard Jill Townsend, left, the West Coast Conference’s reigning player of the year, and senior forward Jenn Wirth were named Tuesday to the WCC’s 10-player preseason team. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

There is no sure thing in college basketball – especially this year – but based on past performance, the Gonzaga women are as close as it gets.

For the eighth consecutive season, the Zags are picked to win the West Coast Conference regular-season title, the conference announced Tuesday.

That’s a good omen, considering GU has failed to deliver a title only once in that span. Going back further, the Zags have won 15 of the past 16 regular-season titles.

“I think it just says that we’re well respected, and that sometimes this speaks more to your past than this team,” GU head coach Lisa Fortier said.

“But they also look at who we have … it’s kind of a little of what you’ve done before, but we can do a lot this year.”

The Zags open defense of their title on Dec. 28 at Loyola Marymount and will be back in the Kennel on Jan. 2 against Saint Mary’s.

The WCC portion of the schedule was announced last month, but the nonconference slate is still a work in progress.

“But I think we’re getting close,” Fortier said.

Gonzaga won the title in a runaway last year, going 17-1 to finish four games ahead of BYU and San Diego.

Fortier returns all but two players from a team that went 28-3 last season and almost certainly would have hosted first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games at the Kennel had the COVID-19 pandemic not intervened.

GU wasn’t a unanimous pick. The Zags took seven of 10 first-place votes. BYU grabbed two and Portland one.

Gonzaga had 79 votes overall, ahead of BYU with 73 and Portland with 64.

San Diego was picked fourth, followed by Saint Mary’s, Pacific, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara and San Francisco.

Ten days into practice, Fortier said her team has been “pretty steady.”

“We have a lot of people who can do a lot of things,” Fortier said. “There’s a lot less teaching that has to happen, because so many people have experience.”

Gonzaga put two of those players, seniors Jill Townsend and Jenn Wirth, on the WCC’s 10-player preseason team.

Townsend was WCC Player of the Year last season after averaging 12.3 points and 5.6 rebounds and shooting 41% from 3-point range.

Wirth led the Zags last season with 6.8 rebounds per game and was second in scoring with 10.8 per game.

Gonzaga has been selected to win the conference 13 of the past 17 seasons. Gonzaga has a conference record of 226-30 (.883) during the past 16 seasons, including 15 WCC regular-season titles and seven WCC Tournament championships.

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