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Michelle Smith's Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Notebook

Feb 20, 2021
Cliff Grassmick / Colorado Athletics
The stretch run of the Pac-12 season has arrived. A season of stops and starts, of national prominence and competitive games, a season that was in jeopardy of never actually happening will enter its final weekend before the start of the 20th Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
It’s time to empty the notebook and take a look around the league.
Casting the NET
With four Pac-12 teams included in the NCAA Top 16 reveal, which took place Monday night during the nationally-televised matchup between Stanford and Oregon, the conference was second only to the SEC in the number of teams included with four: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon. Stanford has been targeted as a No. 1 seed by virtue of its No. 1 ranking in the new NCAA NET Rankings. 
The Cardinal are benefitting in the NET rankings system from the fact that their 17-game, 9-week road trip weighs significantly in the formula used by the NCAA to determine the NET ranking. The ranking rewards road wins, and the Cardinal certainly have plenty of those at 13-1. 
UCLA ranks at No. 7 this week and may get an even bigger lift after Friday’s dominant win over Oregon, which was one spot behind them this week at No. 8.
Arizona is No. 12.
Oregon State and Washington State are next at Nos. 41 and 42 and the Beavers win over USC on Friday night should bolster their standing, followed by Colorado at No. 50 and USC at No. 67. For the same reason that Stanford has been boosted by its plethora of road wins, the Women of Troy have a 3-4 road mark, making it more difficult for them to move up the net rankings despite having won six of their last 10 games heading into Sunday’s important matchup against Oregon.
Buffaloes Making a Run
Colorado’s spot in the NET rankings (No. 50) as well as a three-game winning streak that included wins over USC and Washington State (just the program’s second win over WSU in their 10 trips to Pullman), puts them in a position to earn an NCAA Tournament berth with a strong finish, which would be the program’s first since 2013. The Buffaloes sit at 9-9 overall and 7-8 in conference play, but their upset over then-No. 1 Stanford will carry a lot of weight in their future postseason plans.
“I think every single thing we’re accomplishing is a huge step forward,” Colorado head coach JR Payne said. “It’s a credit to the kids who have been here a long time and have put in a whole lot of work to get us in a position where we are competing at a really high level.”
Adding to the schedule
Both Oregon State and Arizona State have indicated that they are open to scheduling some of their postponed games in order to bolster their chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and the conference has indicated that it would be willing to allow teams to schedule makeup games in Las Vegas before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament to accommodate that. With the tournament schedule being moved back a day to start on Wednesday, the window for making those decisions will be tighter.
Oregon State is finding its groove, winning three of four while navigating a series of mid-season postponements. The end of its conference schedule will be a tough one for the Beavers, with Sunday’s matchup with UCLA and the regular-season finale against Oregon.
Arizona State (10-8), after a difficult evening against Stanford on Friday, will close the schedule with Cal on Sunday and then a home rivalry date with 10th-ranked Arizona next Sunday.
Bears on the rebound
In what can only be described as a challenging season - with seven of their last nine games postponed -  the Cal women’s basketball team proved Friday that they are prepared to fight to the finish after taking No. 10 Arizona to the limit before falling 59-50. Cal led briefly with six minutes to go in the game against the 14-2 Wildcats. It was a breakout game for Bears freshman post Dalayah Daniels, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“We are a really good team and we just have to prove it,” Daniels said after the game.
Here’s hoping that the young Bears get that opportunity down the stretch.