Skip to main content

Pac-12 Hoops Central

All things Pac-12
Men's & Women's Basketball

Michelle Smith: Checking in on Pac-12 women's basketball and the latest AP rankings

Dec 9, 2021

Perhaps it’s the circle of basketball life.

Colorado entered the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time since 2016, coming in to this week’s poll at No. 25, while Oregon, which has occupied a spot in the national women’s basketball rankings for 80 straight weeks, departed after last week’s loss to UC Davis.

Colorado has experience and depth and the confidence gained by an 9-0 start to the season. Oregon, meanwhile, is at 4-3 after a spate of injuries to key players that has derailed the Ducks’ hopes for a successful start to the 2021-22 season.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized,” said Colorado coach JR Payne. “It’s an honor to be recognized. We appreciate it. We love it. But in the end, it doesn’t mean anything. We are just working on trying to be great every single day.”

Oregon head coach Kelly Graves finds himself in a different place.

“It’s been rough,” Graves said of long-term injuries to Nyara Sabally (knee), Te-Hina Paopao (knee) and transfer guard Endyia Rogers (broken hand).

Sabally has played in two games thus far, including a 30-point, 11-rebound effort against Oklahoma on November 20 in the Bahamas. 

Rogers’ cast has been removed and could be ready as soon as Oregon’s midwestern trip to Kansas State and Northwestern. Sabally and Paopao will hopefully be ready to return near the start of the Pac-12 schedule.

“These are three All-Pac-12 players not on the floor,” Graves said. “Our team has a decent attitude about this. You have to coach who you have. In the end, I hope this will help us.”

Graves believes the experience that has been provided to players filling those gaps will build experience and confidence and make the Ducks a deeper team as the Pac-12 season begins. Sydney Parrish and Sedona Prince both established or matched career scoring highs in Saturday’s win over Portland.

And in the meantime, the Ducks will reintegrate their injured players and find their chemistry.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We need to go out and play,” Graves said.

In Boulder, the Buffaloes are coming off an 81-47 win over Southern Utah with two more games before the opening of Pac-12 play.

Colorado is 9-0 for the third time under Payne.

But this time, Payne admits, it feels “different.”

“We’ve scheduled tougher, we’ve played more games on the road, a variety of styles,” Payne said. “This is by far the best team we’ve had. We are deeper and better at every position.”

Colorado is hanging its hat on defense, holding opponents to 49.4 points a game.

“They’ve bought in 100 percent,” Payne said. “We want to create turnovers, to be disruptive. I’ve heard them say, ‘Let’s hold them under 40 points’ or ‘No more points.’ It’s very cool, because it’s one thing for us to talk about it, but it’s another thing for them to talk about it.”

Payne said she wants to see her team improve its rebounding, as well as the consistency of its 3-point shooting. 

“We are excited for the conference to start,” Payne said. “It’s finals week, and everybody gets tired. We had five games in 10 days at one point. Once we get through that, I think everybody will be able to take a breath. But I think this team is more excited about starting the Pac-12 than they have ever been.”

Cardinal, Wildcats and Beavers in action

The No. 4-ranked Stanford Cardinal and Arizona, which ascended to No. 6 in the national rankings, are returning to the floor in the next few days after extended breaks.

Arizona will take on North Dakota State in McKale Center on Thursday night, while the Cardinal will host Pacific at Maples Pavilion on Sunday.

For Arizona (7-0), it will be the first home game since November 19. Arizona’s December 3 game against UC Riverside was cancelled due to COVID concerns within the Highlanders program, leaving the big gap.

Stanford (5-2) has not played a home game since November 16.

The Cardinal has another challenging couple of weeks before the start of Pac-12 play, following up the Pacific game with a Wednesday game against the same UC Davis team that knocked off Oregon, followed by a two-game road trip to No. 9 Tennessee on December 18, followed by a December 21 showdown against top-ranked South Carolina, a rematch of the NCAA semifinal game that Stanford won at the buzzer. Neither the Lady Vols nor the Gamecocks have lost a game yet this season.

No. 23 Oregon State (4-2) bounced back from two losses in Daytona Beach in late November to beat Pacific, 76-72, on Dec. 1. Following a nine-day break, the Beavers are back in action tomorrow to begin an East Coast swing at Monmouth, OSU's first game in the state of New Jersey since 1997.

At least four Pac-12 programs have been ranked in every AP poll since Nov. 16, 2015, an active 118-week streak that is the longest in the country.

UCLA finding its momentum

After losing two of three games at the Gulf Coast Showcase, the Bruins (5-2) hope they are putting their season back on track after a dominant 112-33 win over San Jose State on Sunday.

What comes next will be the biggest challenge of the nonconference schedule, an East Coast game in New Jersey against third-ranked Connecticut at 10 a.m. PT Saturday on ABC, the first regular-season women’s collegiate game to air on the network.

It may not be quite the game UCLA thought it was getting after the news that Huskies’ guard Paige Bueckers, the national player of the year as a freshman last spring, is out for 6-8 weeks with a tibial fracture. Also out is UConn’s top recruit Azzi Fudd. But this is still a Connecticut team anchored by veterans Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and post Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

UCLA head coach Cori Close called the San Jose State game a “good next step” for her team.

“We really worked hard this week to hold the mirror up and say ‘What got exposed’ when we were in the tournament in Florida,” Close said. “It was a gut check, bottom line, and I’m really pleased with how we responded.”