Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament storylines
For the first time in a long time, Pac-12 women's basketball isn't just Stanford and everyone else. That’s what makes the conference tournament, starting Thursday at Seattle’s KeyArena, so exciting. Here are the top storylines for the 2013 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament:
They’re rollin’ deep The conference is enjoying unusual depth this year with four teams - Stanford, Cal, UCLA and Colorado - ranked in the national polls nearly all season. ESPN's latest Bracketology has those four teams locked into the NCAA tournament, with CU’s five-seed being the highest projected for a Pac-12 squad. If Washington has a good run this week, the Huskies could make a case to be the Pac-12’s fifth team in. For context, the league hasn’t exceeded four tourney bids in seven seasons, when seven Pac-12 teams made the tournament in 2006.
Depth means intrigue Zero hate here for the Card, but six consecutive tournament titles does not exactly cultivate intrigue. It’s entirely possible this is the year Stanford is finally dethroned. Does Tara VanDerveer's group have the firepower to get to and win Sunday's final? Definitely. But is it a lock? Definitely not.
If not Stanford, then who? Those Cal Golden Bears sure have had themselves a season, haven’t they? Grabbing a share of the program’s first-ever Pac-12 title this year, the Bears pose the greatest threat to their rival and co-Pac-12 champions, Stanford. Cal is the deepest team in the league and the only conference team to upend the Cardinal this year, posting a sound 67-55 victory in Palo Alto in January. Of course, that win came after a 62-53 loss to Stanford earlier that week in Berkeley. Ah, rivalries.
Heads up for the Buffs "You can’t ignore Colorado," says Pac-12 Networks' Anne Marie Anderson. Yes, the Buffs lost five conference matchups, but they were to Stanford, Cal and UCLA – all of whom are ranked above CU. They also beat then-No. 8 Louisville back in December. You’ll want to keep your eyes on senior guard Chucky Jeffery as she tries to bring her fellow seniors to their first NCAA tournament. She ranks fifth in the conference in rebounding (8.6), assists (4.0) and steals (2.25), and sits at No. 10 for scoring (13.6). You read that right: a guard listed as 5-10 (so, really, 5-8?) is outrebounding most of the league’s bigs. What a boss.
Speaking of boss Chiney Ogwumike. Named the Pac-12 Player of the Year on Tuesday, the Stanford junior is a serious contender for National Player of the Year. She carried the 28-2 Cardinal as the team’s only scoring answer when her teammates struggled on offense early in the season. The opposition knows the ball is always heading her way, yet she’s unstoppable, leading the Pac-12 in scoring (22.9), rebounding (12.7) and field goal percentage (.591). She set two Stanford records in the same game on Feb. 24, recording her 52nd career double-double and setting the Stanford single-game rebounding record with 24 boards. Two games later, Ogwumike broke Stanford’s single-season rebound record, which previously belonged to her sister, Nneka, with 389. How’s that for carrying on the family legacy? Be prepared for the Chiney Ogwumike show this week.
Fresh faces The conference features quite an impressive group of freshmen, including Colorado’s Arielle Roberson, Oregon State’s Jamie Weisner, Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne, Washington’s Talia Walton and Washington State’s Lia Galdeira. See where they stand statistically in the conference and the nation. It's pretty remarkable, and it's just the beginning for these young ones.
Records, they’re a-fallin’ Several school, Pac-12 and NCAA records have been broken this season. Among the most notable: Washington sharpshooter Kristi Kingma drained 11 three-pointers against Oregon in February to set the Pac-12’s single-game mark, which also tied for the NCAA’s most threes by a player in a game this season. Oregon freshman Jillian Alleyne grabbed 27 boards in just her second collegiate game in November, which is also an NCAA best for this season. (Fun fact: Cal’s Gennifer Brandon sits second behind Alleyne on the Pac-12 and NCAA lists with 26 rebounds against USC in January.) Arizona's Davellyn Whyte posted the first triple-double in program history against Arizona State in February. And of course there are the aforementioned rebounding records now belonging to Stanford’s Ogwumike. The moral of the story: This is one talented bunch playing in the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.