The end-of-season awards for women’s basketball come in waves. Coaches first, then media. When Arizona head coach Adia Barnes was not chosen Pac-12 Coach of the Year in the first wave, it was a bit of a surprise to many Wildcat fans.
Over the last two years, Barnes has led the biggest turnaround in program history. Last season, her team improved by 18 games and won the postseason WNIT.
This season, they are not only headed to their first NCAA Tournament in 15 years, but they are currently in line to host the first two rounds. They are ranked higher than any Wildcat team since Barnes was a senior in 1998. They draw the second-largest crowds in the league because of both the players and their coach.
But the coaches and media didn’t agree on the league’s top boss last year. Maybe it would be the same this year and they would vote for the woman who built something out of nothing less than four years into her first head coaching job. After all, she was named a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year award on Wednesday despite being a relative newcomer to the head coaching world.
The media didn’t diverge from the coaches this time around. For the second day in a row, Oregon’s Kelly Graves was given the nod.
The media also agreed that Aari McDonald was the top defender in the Pac-12, giving the redshirt junior the Defensive Player of the Year award. She became the second Wildcat to earn the honor from the league’s press joining Ify Ibekwe, who won the inaugural award in 2010.
McDonald and sophomore Cate Reese appeared on the media’s All-Pac-12 team just as they had on the coaches’ team. Arizona was one of five schools to have multiple players among the 15 named All-Pac-12.
On the defensive side of the ball, both McDonald and junior Sam Thomas got the votes from the media to grab spots on the five-member team. When the coaches voted, they were the only duo to make it from the same team. The media, however, put two pairs of teammates on the squad, adding Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard and Minyon Moore to the group.
The awards the players garnered show that Barnes has brought incredible talent to Arizona and molded them into a great team. In the end, that—not the coaching awards—will likely be what the year will be remembered for.