This Year in Pac-10 Women's Basketball

April 13, 2009

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    The Pac-10 had a strong finish, sending four teams to the postseason, including three teams to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh-straight year. No. 2/3 Stanford capped the 2008-09 campaign with its second-straight trip to the NCAA Final Four as the Conference posted nine NCAA Tournament wins, tying a league record.

    No. 13/10 California had a historic season, advancing to its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16, while No. 19/12 Arizona State overcame foes from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 to reach its second NCAA Elite Eight in three years, posting two big upsets along the way. The Cardinal clinched the Berkeley Regional crown before falling at the hands of eventual national champion Connecticut, who also defeated the Golden Bears and the Sun Devils en route to capturing the national crown.

    Oregon State had a strong finish to the season, earning a WNIT bid and reaching the third round.

    Three Pac-10 teams end the season ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today national rankings, the first time since 2005-06 that the Conference boasts three teams among the final polls.

    Stanford, ranked in the top 10 for most of the year, ends the campaign No. 2 in the writers poll and No. 3 in the coaches poll. California was ranked 13th in the AP, but after reaching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, bumped up to No. 10 in the final coaches' ranking. Arizona State made the biggest jump, coming in at No. 19 in the AP poll after the Conference tournament ended, but move up to No. 12 after posting big upsets in the 'Big Dance' to advance to the Elite Eight.

    In the first poll of the season, USC received votes in the AP poll and ended with votes in the final ranking. Earlier this season, both UCLA and Oregon State were receiving votes in one or both of the polls.

    When the poll was released on Nov. 24, it was the first time two Pac-10 teams have been ranked in the top five in the same week since the final poll in 1989-90. That year, Stanford was No. 2 and Washington was No. 3. Cal also achieved a first in that Nov. 24 poll, appearing in the top five in the ranking for the first time ever.

    After the conclusion of the collegiate campaign, three Pac-10 players were among those selected in the 2009 WNBA Draft. Arizona State's SR G Briann January and California's SR F Ashley Walker were selected in the first round, with January going sixth overall. USC's SR G Camille LeNoir was selected in the second round.

    January was the highest-drafted player out of the Pac-10 and is headed to the Indiana Fever. She was named the 2009 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was a first team All-Pac-10 selection.

    Picked 12th overall in the first round by the Seattle Storm, Walker was the Conference's scoring leader, netting 19.8 points per game, was named first team All-Pac-10 and was a member of the Conference's All-Defensive team.

    The 23rd pick in the draft, going in the second round to the Washington Mystics, LeNoir finished her campaign with a stellar performance in the 2009 State Farm Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament, leading the sixth-seeded Women of Troy to the title bout, the lowest seed to ever advance to the conference championship game. LeNoir was second team All-Pac-10 this season.

    The trio follow a long line of outstanding women's basketball players who have gone on to have successful careers in the WNBA. Among those players are three-time WNBA All-Star MVP Lisa Leslie, a member of the LA Sparks, four-time WNBA Champions Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper, and four-time All-American and 2009 State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy national player of the year Candice Wiggins.

    It looked as if it was going to be a different ending in the Pac-10, with California leading in the standings for most of the way. But Stanford closed the 2008-09 regular season with a pair of wins to clinch its 19th regular-season crown, en route to clinching its third-straight tournament title and sixth overall. The Cardinal met a determined USC squad that became the lowest-ever seed to advance to the title game as the No. 6 seed, but the Women of Troy's Cinderella run was stopped by the mighty Cardinal.

    The Golden Bears began their conference season with a school-record 11-game win streak, but eventually finished second in the standings for the second-straight year, while Arizona State, who started league play 0-2, went on a 15-game tear to tie with California in the league standings.

    Despite a rookie coach steering the reigns, UCLA recorded a big upset over Cal late in the season and finished 9-9 for fourth place, while Oregon State also had a strong finish, winning its final three conference games to pull in to tie with the Bruins. USC hovered around fourth in the standings for most of the campaign, also tying with OSU and UCLA.

    Plagued by injuries, Oregon placed seventh overall, followed by Washington State and Arizona. The Wildcats had numerous close calls with 10 of its 14 Pac-10 losses being decided by 10 points or less. Washington struggled after winning its opening game of the league schedule, but won two of its last three games of the season, including becoming the first-ever 10th seed in the Pac-10 Tournament to advance.

    Stanford's Jayne Appel was named the Conference Player of the Year, with ASU's Briann January earning Defensive Player of the Year nods for the second-straight season. USC's Briana Gilbreath was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Legendary head coach Tara VanDerveer was voted the league's Coach of the Year.

    With a stellar showing in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, which saw one team advance to the NCAA Final Four for the second-straight year, the Pac-10 posted a 9-3 record in the 'Big Dance', the most for the league since 1992 when the Pac-10 went 9-4 also tying a league record.

    The Conference earned at least three NCAA Tournament bids in each of the last seven years. For the sixth-straight year, the Pac-10 had at least one team reach the NCAA Elite Eight with two teams advancing that far for the first time since 1994 and the fourth time overall (1990 and 1992 were the other years).

    At least one Conference squad advanced to the Sweet Sixteen each year since 2004 with this year marking the first since 1992 three Pac-10 teams have advanced to the Sweet 16.

    Pac-10 teams have combined for a 138-100 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament with at least one Conference team reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 25 of 30 tournaments. In addition, the Pac-10 has reached the Elite Eight in 19 of 28 years, including the last six seasons.

    Five Pac-10 players representing four teams appeared on the Associated Press All-America teams. Stanford's Jayne Appel was named to the second team, while California's Ashley Walker was a third team pick. Cal's Alexis Gray-Lawson, Arizona State's Briann January and Arizona's Ify Ibekwe were honorable mentions.

    The United States Basketball Writers Association also announced its 10-member All-America squad, with Appel and Walker prominently featured among them.

    Six different Pac-10 women's basketball players were listed among the top 25 in five statistical rankings. Arizona State claimed two players in the top 25 in two categories. California's Ashley Walker was ranked nationally in two categories and was for most of the season - scoring (17th, 19.8 ppg) and field goal percentage (17th, 55.3). Oregon State SR G Mercedes Fox-Griffin was the highest Pac-10 player ranked in any category, coming in fifth in free throw percentage.

    Seven of the 10 Conference teams were among the top 25 in at least one statistical category with Stanford appearing in the top 25 in eight different categories, including leading the country in rebounding margin.

  • For final standings, team-by-team notes, rankings and more, view the full release here and for final statistics click here.
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