Oregon Voted Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Preseason Favorite
SAN FRANCISCO - Defending Pac-12 regular-season and Pac-12 Tournament Champion OREGON was voted the preseason favorite to win the 2018-19 season, the Conference office announced on Wednesday at Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day. The Ducks, who garner the top spot for the first time ever (based on available information), collected the maximum possible points (121) and first-place votes (11). STANFORD was voted to finish second, collecting 107 points and the only other first-place vote, and was just ahead of OREGON STATE in third (104 points).
The poll was voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Conference has administered a preseason poll every year since it began sponsoring women’s sports in 1986-87.
The Ducks return four starters from last season’s championship squad that also advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the second-consecutive year. Last year’s league tournament crown was the first in the history of the program. Among the returnees back for 2018-19 are All-American Sabrina Ionescu and All-Pac-12 honoree Ruthy Hebard. Ionescu broke the NCAA career record for triple-doubles in just her sophomore campaign and was tabbed the Nancy Lieberman Award winner.
Stanford advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game and finished just a half game back of the Ducks in the regular season. The Cardinal have 12 players back from last year’s team that made its 11th-straight NCAA Sweet 16. Oregon State, which has not finished lower than third in the Pac-12 dating back to 2014, has four starters returning that helped the Beavs advance to the NCAA Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
CALIFORNIA was picked to finish fourth with 82 points. The Golden Bears are led by All-American candidate Kristine Anigwe who led the team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances while leading the team in scoring and rebounding. ARIZONA STATE is fifth with 79 points. The Sun Devils have been one of the most consistent teams in the Pac-12, making five-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Rounding out the top half of the polling is UCLA in sixth place with 74 points. The Bruins will look different this season after losing two key figures to graduation. But head coach Cori Close has 10 letterwinners to continue the team’s success which saw UCLA reach the NCAA Elite Eight last season for the first time since 1999.
USC was picked seventh in the poll (66), UTAH was eighth (50) and COLORADO was ninth (44). The Trojans posted their first 20-win campaign last season in head coach Mark Trakh’s first season back in Los Angeles and this year boasts a deeper roster. The Utes advanced to its third-consecutive postseason, playing in the WNIT. Head coach Lynne Roberts has a trio of seniors to lead the team, while the Buffs’ have All-Pac-12 member Kennedy Leonard to help the CU move up the league standings.
ARIZONA came in 10th in the poll with 28 points and WASHINGTON STATE is 11th (19), just ahead of WASHINGTON in 12th place (18). The Wildcats have a highly-touted recruiting class joining the squad, in addition to talented transfers who become eligible this season. The Cougs will be led by a new head coach in Kamie Ethridge and the Huskies will look to Amber Melgoza, an All-Pac-12 honoree and one of the most prolific scorers in the Conference last season.
Pac-12 women’s basketball is in the midst of its most successful run of seasons, boasting the most NCAA Tournament wins of any conference over the last three years (41) and the best winning percentage in the tournament among peer leagues (.695). The Pac-12 earned six NCAA Tournament bids in 2017-18, marking the fifth-consecutive year at least five teams have received berths. Three teams made the NCAA Elite Eight last year, also marking the third-straight year at least four teams have made it to the round of 16.
Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day takes place today at Pac-12 Headquarters in San Francisco. Pac-12 Network airs a live special beginning at 11 a.m. PT and will include interviews from student-athletes and head coaches from all 12 institutions, as well as an in-depth preview of the season to come. A live stream of the press conferences with every team and student-athlete will also be on pac-12.com and on the Conference’s Twitter account (@pac12).
In addition, a one-hour Pac-12 women’s basketball special will air on ESPNU from 3-4 p.m. PT/6-7 p.m. ET. The show includes interviews with head coaches from all 12 teams, and will be hosted by Debbie Antonelli and Anne Marie Anderson.
The women’s basketball campaign officially tips off on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Visit pac-12.com for the full schedule.
Below are the results of the 2018 Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll; coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams (points: 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, first-place votes in parentheses).
2018-19 PAC-12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACHES’ POLL
|Team (First Place)||Points|