Cal, Stanford ranked in preseason polls
By the Pac-12 Conference
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- STANFORD and CALIFORNIA were both ranked in the top-15 of several preseason polls, including the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, which were recently released. In addition, STANFORD junior Chiney Ogwumike was named to the AP's Preseason All-America team.
The Cardinal were ranked No. 4 by both the writers and the coaches, while the Golden Bears came in at No. 13 in the AP ranking and No. 14 in the coaches polling. In addition to the two ranked teams, UCLA received votes in both polls and USC garnered a vote from the writers.
Led by junior forward Chiney Ogwumike (Cypress, Texas), the Cardinal is coming off a fifth-straight trip to the NCAA Women's Final Four. It has posted at least 33 victories in each of those years, including posting three-straight undefeated seasons in Pac-12 play. Also led by Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer, Stanford has won six-straight Pac-12 Tournament titles. The team returns four starters, including Ogwumike, who was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and averaged 15.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last year. However, the Cardinal will have to make up for the loss of three-time All-American and two-time Conference Player of the Year Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
The Golden Bears also return four starters from last year's team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and placed second in the Pac-12 standings behind the Cardinal. This year's senior class was rated the No. 1-recruiting class in the nation four years ago and, with the majority of them set to be starters again this year, look to take the team even further into the NCAA Tournament under the direction of second-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. The team's top-five scorers return this year, led by senior guard Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino, Calif.).
UCLA looks to return a healthier squad in 2012-13 and build on the success of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011. The Bruins welcome back All-Pac-12 performer Markel Walker (Philadelphia, Pa.), but also look to have a healthy Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach, Calif.) back on the floor after missing the 2011-12 campaign because of injury.
USC will have a lot to replace from last year's team, but return its second-leading scorer and rebounder in junior forward Cassie Harberts (San Clemente, Calif.), as well as welcoming an incoming class that was ranked 14th in the nation. The Trojans have not finished lower than fourth in the Conference standings in the last five years.
Other publications to have released preseason polls were Athlon's Magazine and Lindy's College Preview Magazine. The Cardinal was tabbed No. 5 in both publications, while the Bears were rated No. 14 by both, as well. In all four polls, defending NCAA Champion Baylor was the consensus No. 1 team in the country.