clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona women’s basketball heads into another tough Pac-12 season

What does the conference look like as league play gets into full swing?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 08 Women’s Kansas at Arizona

A few Pac-12 teams have already started conference play. This season, the women began moving to a schedule more like the men’s with league play starting in mid-December, then teams returning to nonconference play until the Pac-12 picked up again around the new year. Arizona was not one of the teams that was able to make that work this year, so they will start play on Dec. 29 against Arizona State.

Many of the teams have tested themselves already this season, so they sport a loss or two. Arizona is one of those teams, getting in games against Kansas and Baylor. How well did that prepare the Wildcats for their Pac-12 opponents?

In the preseason media poll, my votes were a bit different than those of my colleagues:

  1. Stanford Cardinal
  2. UCLA Bruins
  3. Arizona Wildcats
  4. Oregon Ducks
  5. Utah Utes
  6. Washington State Cougars
  7. Oregon State Beavers
  8. Colorado Buffaloes
  9. Arizona State Sun Devils
  10. Washington Huskies
  11. USC Women of Troy
  12. California Golden Bears

After watching the teams in nonconference play, those are no longer how I would rank them. Let’s dive into a preview of the teams in the order they would rank today based on both what they’ve done and their potential going forward.

No. 1 Stanford Cardinal (13-1, 1-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: No. 2

WBCA ranking: No. 2

NET ranking: No. 3

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 2

Overview: The Cardinal have been tested more than any team in the conference, and they have come through it with flying colors. Their only loss came against No. 1 South Carolina in overtime by five points. Stanford led for most of the game but couldn’t put it away.

They are winning by an average of 28.1 points per game, scoring an average of 84.2 PPG and giving up an average of 56.1 PPG. Their net rating is even more drastic. They have an offensive rating of 118.0 against a defensive rating of 79.7.

No. 2 UCLA Bruins (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: No. 11

WBCA ranking: No. 13

NET ranking: No. 25

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 46

Overview: After coming into the season unranked, the Bruins proved that they belonged with a challenging early schedule that they handled well. Like Stanford, their only loss is to No. 1 South Carolina. Also like Stanford, they were extremely competitive against the Gamecocks. Unlike Stanford, they had to do it on the Gamecocks’ home court.

Charisma Osborne is having a strong final year, standing fifth in the Pac-12 with 18.1 PPG, while freshman Kiki Rice is as advertised. Their bench is a little shorter than it was at the beginning of the season. Guard Dominique Onu just announced that she was transferring across town to USC. It shouldn’t have a major impact on their on-court production, though. Onu had only played in six games, averaging 10.7 minutes. As long as UCLA can avoid the injuries that have plagued them the past few years, the loss should not hurt them.

No. 3 Utah Utes

AP ranking: No. 12

WBCA ranking: No. 11

NET ranking: No. 6

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 7

Overview: Tara VanDerveer knew what she was doing when she chose who to vote for in the Pac-12 preseason poll. Since she couldn’t give her vote to her own team, she gave it to the team they played in last year’s conference championship game. It appears to be the right move.

The addition of former USC forward Alissa Pili has been a huge boost for the Utes. She is having the kind of year that was expected after she was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year two years ago. Her 20.1 PPG are third in the league. The Utes also have shooters, led by Gianna Kneepkens and her 49.1 3-point shooting, who help open it up for Pili inside. They are the second-highest scoring team in the country, trailing only LSU.

No. 4 Oregon Ducks (10-2, 1-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: No. 16

WBCA ranking: No. 16

NET ranking: No. 10

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 9

Overview: In the offseason, Ducks head coach Kelly Graves called freshman Grace VanSlooten “the real deal.” He was not wrong. VanSlooten has been arguably the top freshman and unarguably one of the top players in the league. She ranks seventh in the league with 16.3 points per game.

VanSlooten is not alone, though. Close behind is Endyia Rogers, who is tied for ninth in the conference with 14.4 PPG.

Oregon shouldn’t be a threat to Stanford, but they will battle with UCLA, Utah, and Arizona for the final three first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. Their only losses are to two top 10 teams.

No. 5 Arizona Wildcats (10-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: No. 18

WBCA ranking: No. 16

NET ranking: No. 29

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 23

Overview: Arizona is going to have to battle to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament this year. The Wildcats will have to battle even more to get to host the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament. There’s definitely work to do, but things are looking up. A full breakdown of the nonconference season is here.

No. 6 Colorado Buffaloes (10-3, 0-1 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 35

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 40

Overview: The Buffaloes are having to adjust to life without Mya Hollingshed for the first time in five years. The results are mixed. They have a strong frontcourt tandem of Quay Miller and former Wildcat Aaronette Vonleh, both of whom average double figures. They are also getting double figure scoring from Frida Formann and 9.5 PPG from Jaylyn Sherrod.

It hasn’t been enough to elevate them against the better competition on the schedule, though. They have lost to the two ranked teams they played by significant margins and also lost to a Texas Tech team that’s No. 73 in the NET.

No. 7 Oregon State (7-4, 0-1 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 62

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 70

Overview: Freshman Raegan Beers is having an impressive rookie season and Talia van Oelhoffen is as prolific as ever with 18.2 PPG, but the Beavers just haven’t been able to compete with most of the better teams on their schedule. They gave Oregon a tough game, but that was the most competitive the Beavs have been against a ranked team this season and they still lost by eight. On a positive note, they have played a very challenging schedule which should have prepared them for the Pac-12.

No. 8 Washington State (10-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 50

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 68

Overview: There’s a lot of work for the Cougars to do if they want to make their third straight NCAA Tournament. While elder sister Krystal Leger-Walker exhausted her eligibility after last year, the more prolific Charlisse Leger-Walker is back and being just as prolific on the scoreboard with 21.1 PPG.

Still, the Cougs lost to Washington to open Pac-12 play. It wasn’t a close game, either, despite Leger-Walker scoring 40 points. That’s probably not something that should be happening at this point in both programs’ developments. They also lost to 4-8 BYU which has a new coach and is No. 159 in the NET.

No. 9 USC Women of Troy (10-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 44

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 53

Overview: The Women of Troy had a very flashy opening to their season, winning their first 10 games. The problem was that they played no one of note during that run. When they finally had to face tough teams—UCLA and Texas in this case—they couldn’t get it done. They did, however, give the Bruins a tough game.

How much the addition of Onu helps them is up open to question. They are already a team that consists primarily of transfers. As has been the case for several years, they lost several players to transfer in the offseason.

Their top recruit, Aaliyah Gayles, was shot in the spring and has been recovering from her injuries. With the loss of a top 10 recruit and the need to integrate so many new faces, it could have been a tough year. They’ve been much better than expected.

No. 10 Washington Huskies (10-2, 1-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 115

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 108

Overview: The Huskies looked like they might be a contender to move out of the bottom third of the league when they absolutely dominated Washington State to open conference play. Then, they fell to lowly Liberty (No. 160 in the Net) on their home court. They have some talent this season, getting a strong recruiting class and a promising transfer in Dalayah Daniels. It may take a year or so for second-year coach Tina Langley to put things together, though.

No. 11 California Golden Bears (9-3, 0-1)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 78

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 88

Overview: The Bears have a little more scoring this year, especially with the addition of former Ute Kemery Martin. Jayda Curry is still the player that makes them go, though.

They were competitive in an early game against AP No. 5 Notre Dame but ended up losing by 11. They opened Pac-12 play with a 21-point loss to Stanford on Dec. 23. Their other loss came to SMU in Haas Pavilion. The Mustangs are No. 70 in the NET.

As a team that has won only six Pac-12 games in the last three seasons—one by forfeit—Cal still has a lot to prove. It would seem like head coach Charmin Smith needs them to start proving it soon.

No. 12 Arizona State Sun Devils (7-4, 0-0 Pac-12)

AP ranking: N/A

WBCA ranking: N/A

NET ranking: No. 120

Her Hoop Stats ranking: No. 116

Overview: First-year head coach Natasha Adair brought Tyi Skinner with her from Delaware. Skinner has been a real star for the Sun Devils, scoring 20.6 PPG to land in second place in the conference for points per game. Teammate Jaddan Simmons is 12th with 13.7 PPG.

Adair had to piece her roster together after multiple players transferred following the retirement of Charli Turner Thorne. Having to get everyone on the same page would be enough of a challenge even if Adair didn’t have to deal with multiple injuries on top of it. They have played with as few as seven players this season.