Stanford Picked to Win Pac-12
WALNUT CREEK, Calif.— Collecting the maximum number of points (121) and first-place votes (11), STANFORD was picked the preseason favorite for the 11th year in a row by the Pac-12 women's basketball coaches to win the Pac-12 title, Commissioner Larry Scott announced today. Receiving one first-place vote and second in the polling was USC (111), and CALIFORNIA was third with 98 points.
The Cardinal have claimed the regular-season Conference crown the last 11 years and are under the direction of recent Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Tara VanDerveer, who is entering her 26th year at the Stanford helm. Her team looks to be as strong as ever with All-American senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Cypress, Texas) and younger sister and last year's Freshman of the Year, sophomore Chiney Ogwumike (Cypress, Texas), returning.
After advancing to the WNIT Championship last season, USC comes back with two all-conference performers in senior Briana Gilbreath (Katy, Texas) and Ashley Corral (Vancouver, Wash.). This year's second-place pick in the preseason poll was the Trojans' highest since being picked second in 2006-07.
The next three teams in the poll will have first-year head coaches roaming the sidelines. The Golden Bears look to re-bound under first-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, after finishing with a sub-.500 Conference record for the first time last year since 2004-05.
UCLA is fourth in the polling with 83 points. Finishing second in the league last year and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year, the Bruins look to continue their recent successes under first-year head coach Cori Close, despite the loss of senior Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach, Calif.) due to injury.
ARIZONA STATE garnered 68 points to place fourth. Though the Sun Devils have a different coach on the sidelines this season, it should be a smooth transition for them with interim head coach Joseph Anders having been with the pro-gram for 11 years as a member of the staff.
Newcomer UTAH rounds out the top half of the coaches' poll, collecting 61 points. In his first year last season, head coach Anthony Levrets led the Utes to the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the 2011 Mountain West Conference tournament crown.
The bottom half of the polling has WASHINGTON STATE with 59 points and seventh place. The Cougars made big im-provements last year, winning the most league games since 2000-01. OREGON is eighth with 51 points, followed by ARIZONA (48) and WASHINGTON (38). The Ducks welcome back Nia Jackson, who was the Conference's leading scorer before sitting out the last nine games of the season due to injury. The Huskies have a new coach on the side-lines, as well. Head coach Kevin McGuff had a very successful stint at Xavier, leading the Musketeers to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2010. And the Wildcats lose the league's Defensive Player of the Year in Ify Ibekwe, but return two-time all-conference performer Davellyn Whyte (Phoenix, Ariz.).
The final two teams in the poll are COLORADO (36) in 11th and OREGON STATE (18) in 12th. The Buffs make their debut in the Pac-12 this season after coming off of a WNIT postseason appearance, while the Beavers, though finishing last in the league, were competitive in nearly every game, losing 15 contests by 10 points or less.
A Pac-12 preseason coaches' poll has been administered since the 1998-99 season. Following are the results of the 2011 preseason coaches' poll; coaches are not allowed to vote for their owns teams (points 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-, first-place votes in parentheses).
2011-12 PAC-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACHES' POLL
1. Stanford (11) 121
2. USC (1) 111
3. California 98
4. UCLA 83
5. Arizona State 68
6. Utah 61
7. Washington State 59
8. Oregon 51
9. Arizona 48
10. Washington 38
11. Colorado 36
12. Oregon State 18
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