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Arizona women’s basketball picked to finish in top half of Pac-12

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 07 Women’s Arizona at Washington Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the coaches are right, the Arizona Wildcats will finish in the top half of the Pac-12 for the first time since 2011. The Wildcats were picked to finish sixth in the coaches preseason poll after finishing eighth in the league last season.

Arizona didn’t have a winning record in conference last year, but they did enough to finish better than the coaches predicted. They were projected to finish tenth in the league in 2018-19, but outdid those projections.

This year, the Wildcats return all five of their starters and significant bench contributions. They lost only two players from last year’s WNIT championship team, neither of whom started.

At the top of that list of starters is the top returning scorer in NCAA women’s basketball. Junior point guard Aari McDonald became Arizona’s single-season scoring leader on her way to finishing third in the country in scoring per game last year with 24.1 points per game. Both of those who finished in front of her were seniors.

The Wildcats also return sophomore Cate Reese who led the team in rebounding with 6.8 rebounds per game and was the league’s top-scoring freshman last year. Her 11.8 ppg were good for second on the team.

The coaches picked Oregon to win the title for the third straight year. They were followed by Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, USC, Washington, Washington State, California, and Colorado. Arizona State and Arizona were separated by only four points in the poll.

Coverage of the women’s Pac-12 Media Day will air on the Pac-12 Network on Monday. “Inside Pac-12 Basketball: Women’s Media Day” kicks off at 12 p.m. MST. It will run for three hours and feature coaches and players from all 12 teams. Arizona will be represented by coach Adia Barnes, McDonald, and senior Tee Tee Starks.

The Wildcats will look to improve on their 24-13 mark and 7-11 conference record when they open the year. Their exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 27, and they begin the regular season against North Dakota on Tuesday, Nov. 5.