Pac-12 women's basketball roundup: 3 teams joining the league schedule this weekend
Three weeks into the start of the Pac-12 season, three more teams will be joining the league schedule this weekend — Oregon State, Utah and Washington.
For Oregon State (7-3), hosting No. 7 Arizona on Thursday night will mark the end of a 25-day COVID break, with five games postponed due to COVID-19. It is the second year in a row the Beavers have been forced to take significant time off because of the pandemic. Last season, it was 29 days.
In 2021, OSU lost its first two games after the break and then rallied to a strong Pac-12 finish and an NCAA Tournament berth. Opening with the Wildcats, who are coming off their first loss of the season at USC on Sunday, will be no easy task.
“I feel like we have a lot of great basketball ahead,” said Beavers coach Scott Rueck in The Oregonian earlier this week.
Utah (8-3), meanwhile, will be back on the floor for the first time since December 21 when it takes on No. 2 Stanford at home on Sunday after its Thursday game against Cal was postponed on Wednesday night due health and safety protocols within the Bears' program. The Utes center with an NCAA NET ranking of No. 22, which should put them in good position to reach the NCAA Tournament if they can recapture their momentum.
“We are playing really confidently,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “We have our best assist-to-turnover ratio, the kids are sharing the ball, nobody is selfish. This is a good group.”
Washington (5-3) will play for the first time since December 20 in their Friday-night matchup at UCLA. The Huskies had won three in a row before their season was paused.
Not an easy situation for first-year head coach Tina Langley, who is working to establish her team culture.
“We are excited to get back to playing again, I can tell you that,” Langley said. “Like everyone else, we’ve had some challenging times, but I’m proud of the team’s resiliency. Adversity is a chance for growth and there was a time that we couldn’t grow as a team on the court, but I do think our culture grew during this time.
"This isn’t a traditional weekend. Normally, this week would be very scout-heavy, very much about our opponents because we’ve been in a rhythm…But the No. 1 thing that's important is getting back to who we are.”
The only team that is still unable to play is Arizona State (8-5). The Sun Devils last took the court on December 30. ASU, which has also won three straight, has had six Pac-12 games postponed, including this week’s upcoming road games at Oregon and Oregon State.
The game plan
The Pac-12 has been working with the campuses to reschedule postponements that have defined the early weeks of the conference season with the bulk of games to be made up on the following Wednesday dates: January 19, January 26, February 9 and February 16. Any further pauses of disruptions during the regular conference weekend will allow for additional games to be made up during the normal weekend windows through the remainder of the season.
Different days in Colorado
The Buffaloes woke up on Wednesday morning as the lone undefeated team in Division 1 basketball, women's or men's, at 13-0. In fact, Colorado is off to the second-best start in program history (15-0; 1992-93) and they will face no bigger challenge thus far than Friday night’s home meeting against No. 2 Stanford. The Buffaloes upset the eventual national champions last season, raising the profile of this game even further. Stanford has won 17 straight games against Pac-12 opponents, including the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments, coming into the matchup.
Oregon is figuring things out
The Ducks played only their second game with a mostly full lineup on Friday night against Stanford and the rolling Cardinal came away with the win despite the newly returned trio of Te-Hina Paopao, Endyia Rogers and Nyara Sabally combining for 44 points. Oregon showed even more potential to do damage both in the post and on the perimeter on Sunday against Cal, hitting 14 3-pointers against the Bears, and getting another strong all-around game from the junior Sabally, who had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Short-handed UCLA and Arizona come up short
These are two super-talented teams missing some key parts. UCLA fell at Colorado with just eight available players, still without guard Gina Conti and post Angela Dugalic. Arizona went to Los Angeles to play a rescheduled game against USC on Sunday and the Wildcats were upset — suffering their first loss of the season — in a game played without starting point guard Shaina Pellington and starting post Lauren Ware. What this proves in both cases is that it’s really difficult to win games in this conference when you are less than full strength.
Arizona heads to Oregon State also planning to play without Pellington and Ware.