It’s the time of year for anticipation and arguing about who will be the best players and teams in NCAA women’s basketball this season. The Arizona Wildcats find themselves in the mix of both as watch lists and preseason rankings were released on Tuesday.
The Wildcats debuted at No. 19 in the Associated Press preseason poll. That’s exactly where they left off last year after being dismissed from the NCAA Tournament by North Carolina.
According to the voters, that makes Arizona the second-best team from the Pac-12. The problem is that they don’t consider the league very strong. That could change sooner rather than later as the conference brought in 11 of last year’s 24 McDonald’s All-Americans and five of ESPN HoopGurlz’ top 10 recruiting classes.
The only other Pac-12 teams in the preseason rankings are No. 2 Stanford and No. 20 Oregon. Other teams are getting notice from some of the voters, though. Utah and UCLA are the first two teams outside the top 25, and Washington State appeared on one ballot.
The Arizona team that hopes to maintain or better that initial projection by the voters includes seven newcomers, including three transfers. One of those transfers is expected to have an especially big impact.
Jade Loville, who is listed as a guard/forward on the Arizona roster, landed on the preseason watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the best shooting guard in the country.
Is that an indication that Loville will play shooting guard? It’s difficult to tell since Arizona has a load of guards and also needs to replace Sam Thomas at small forward. If a player is good enough, she can win awards even if she doesn't end up playing the position it honors. Former Arizona star Aari McDonald won the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award in 2020 despite playing primarily at the point guard position.
Loville transferred to Arizona in the offseason after spending one year at Arizona State. She was the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 in her fourth season of college basketball. She spent the first three at Boise State.