Media votes Oregon preseason favorite to win Pac-12 Women's Basketball crown

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SAN FRANCISCO -  In a polling of media members who cover Pac-12 women’s basketball, two-time defending Pac-12 regular-season champion OREGON was voted to win the 2019-20 regular-season crown, the Conference office announced today. The Ducks, who return four letterwinners from last year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four team, received 19 first-place votes and 239 points. Placing second in the polling was STANFORD, who collected 219 points and one first-place vote, with OREGON STATE rounding out the top three with 200 points.

Also announced was the five-person Preseason All-Pac-12 team, which was also voted on by the media covering the league. 2019 Wade Trophy and John R. Wooden Award winner Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu was an unanimous pick, making her third-straight appearance on the team. Teammate Ruthy Hebard was also voted to the squad, also her third time earning the preseason nod. Joining them are ARIZONA’s Aari McDonald, the nation’s top-returning scorer, OREGON STATE’s Mikayla Pivec and UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere.

The early season national favorite, the Ducks have won 16 league games each of the last two seasons, also posting back-to-back 30-win seasons. Four Ducks have been named candidates for the national positional awards so far this week, including Ionescu, who has claimed the Nancy Lieberman Award (presented to the top point guard) the last two seasons.

Stanford has three letterwinners returning from last year’s Pac-12 Tournament champion squad which also reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the 20th time in program history. Hall of Fame head coach Tara VanDerveer also welcomes the No. 2 overall recruiting class in the nation to join a squad that has three student-athletes named positional candidates so far and is also expected to make a run to the Final Four.

The Beavs have made six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances and have nine letterwinners back from last season’s NCAA Sweet 16 team. OSU is led by positional candidates Destiny Slocum and Pivec. Oregon State has finished in the top three of the Conference every season since 2014 and has expectations to make a run at the national semifinal, as well.

Having made three trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 over the last four seasons, UCLA was picked to finish fourth, amassing 175 points. ARIZONA STATE was picked with fifth 155 points and ARIZONA rounds out the top half of the league with 140 points. Predicted to be a top-25 team, the Bruins have Ann Meyers Drysdale candidate Michaela Onyenwere back this season. She led the team in scoring (18.3 ppg) and is the team’s top-returning rebounder (8.5 rpg). ASU, also predicted to be a top-25 team, has 10 letterwinners and one of the nation’s top prospects joining the team to lead the Sun Devils to a seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Led by Drysdale Award candidate McDonald, the Wildcats made the biggest turnaround in the country of any team last season, winning the most games (24) since 2010-11, and captured the WNIT crown in front of a Pac-12 record and sold-out crowd at home.

UTAH was seventh in the polling with 120 points, followed by USC with 87 points and WASHINGTON with 79 points. The Utes are coming off their first 20-win campaign since 2012-13 and had their best league finish since that season, coming in a tie for sixth. The Trojans have nine newcomers joining the team, including the No. 5 recruiting class in the country. Meanwhile, the Huskies ended the 2018-19 campaign with a run to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, upsetting two higher seeds, and return 10 letterwinners and four starters from that squad.

Rounding out the polling was CALIFORNIA with 57 points for 10th place, edging out WASHINGTON STATE’s 56 points and 11th place, while COLORADO was 12th with 29 points. The Golden Bears are under the direction of first-year head coach and long-time assistant coach Charmin Smith. Cheryl Miller Award candidate and two-time All-Pac-12 honoree Borislava Hristova will lead the Cougars in her final campaign and the Buffs looks to bounce back from an injury-plagued season with three starters back leading the way.

The media’s polling was nearly identical to the coaches preseason poll, with the only difference being Washington State was voted 10th and California 11th by the coaches.

In addition, so far this week, 18 Pac-12 student-athletes have been named candidates for national positional awards, which was announced by the Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

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 four years (55) and the best winning percentage in the tournament among peer leagues (.696). The Pac-12 earned six NCAA Tournament bids in 2018-19, marking the sixth-consecutive year at least five teams received berths and the third-straight year at least half the league was in the Big Dance, with at least three teams advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight for the fourth year in a row. With the Ducks’ appearance in the Final Four, a Pac-12 team has advanced that far in 10 of the last 12 years. Oregon was also the fifth different league team to have a team in the Final Four since 2013.

Prior to the start of the regular season, three Pac-12 teams will face the U.S. Women’s National Team in exhibition games televised on Pac-12 Networks. Stanford takes on the Stars and Stripes on Saturday, Nov. 2 (4:00 p.m. PT) at Maples Pavilion. Oregon State hosts Team USA at Gill Coliseum on Monday, Nov. 4 (7:00 p.m. PT). Oregon faces the National Team on Saturday, Nov. 9 (4:00 p.m. PT) at Matthew Knight Arena. The women’s basketball campaign officially tips off on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Visit pac-12.com for the full schedule.

2019-20 PAC-12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA POLL

  Team (First Place) Points
1. Oregon (19) 239
2. Stanford (1) 219
3. Oregon State 200
4. UCLA 175
5. Arizona State 155
6. Arizona 140
7. Utah 120
8. USC 87
9. Washington 79
10. California 57
11. Washington State 56
12. Colorado 29

2019-20 PRESEASON ALL-PAC-12 (MEDIA)

Name School Pos. Yr. Hometown
Sabrina Ionescu* Oregon  G Sr. Walnut Creek, Calif.
Aari McDonald Arizona G R-So. Fresno, Calif.
Ruthy Hebard Oregon  F Sr. Fairbanks, Alaska
Michaela Onyenwere UCLA F Jr. Aurora, Calif.
Mikayla Pivec Oregon State F Sr. Lynnwood, Wash.

* unanimous selection

 
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