Michelle Smith Women’s Basketball Feature: New Year's Resolutions
We have arrived at the cusp of 2021, with 2020 being a year that deserves to be seen only in a rear-view mirror. A new year brings a fresh perspective and new goals and that would certainly apply to the teams of the Pac-12, who will begin their games again Friday after a holiday hiatus. Let’s talk resolutions for the players and coaches of the Pac-12.
Arizona (7-0, 5-0). A statement win against No. 1.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats would love nothing better than the kick off 2021 with a New Year’s Day upset of the No. 1 Stanford, when they host the top-ranked team in the country at McKale Center for the first time since 1998. The last time Arizona played a No. 1-ranked team was 2006 vs. Maryland. Arizona is 0-4 against No. 1 teams in program history and looking to break that spell on Friday.
“I’m just excited to see what happens,” Wildcats coach Adia Barnes said Wednesday. “I think it’s a good measurement for us.”
We’ll play #️⃣1️⃣ Stanford on Friday at 5:00 on the @Pac12Network.
— Arizona Women's Basketball (@ArizonaWBB) December 28, 2020
Arizona State (6-2, 2-2). Get back in the groove.
The Sun Devils haven’t played since December 18, as their December 20 game at Colorado was postponed. It is the program’s longest break between games in 25 years. But ASU has played as many games as any team in the Pac-12 thus far, and has to have a pretty good sense of itself at this point. After dropping games to UCLA and Arizona on consecutive days early in December - meaning ASU’s only two losses this season have come against top 10 teams - Sunday’s game against No. 1 Stanford will be another opportunity to prove they belong among the best teams in the Pac-12.
Cal (0-7, 0-4). Good health.
Another injury this week means the Bears continue to play with six recruited players. A significant lack of depth and experience is a difficult thing in any season, much less navigating the toughest women’s basketball conference in the country. Charmin Smith is leaning heavily on Dalayah Daniels, the freshman post who has three double-doubles and has played a full 40 minutes in two straight games to anchor this young team.
Colorado (3-4, 1-3). A fresh start.
The Buffaloes’ December 20 game against Arizona State was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. But Colorado, which has lost four of five but has played to within three-points of No. 6 Arizona on December 18, was able to return to the floor after the holiday break to prepare for a set of home games against Washington and Washington State.
Oregon (7-0, 5-0). Prove their power.
The No. 8 Ducks’ resolution is to show that they are darn close to being the same powerhouse team they were a year ago and will have a big opportunity to show it next week when they face Stanford. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring, field-goals made, field-goal percentage and 3-pointers made per game and second in rebounding and assists. Head coach Kelly Graves received a contract extension through 2028-29 this week, affirming Oregon’s intent to stay in the ranks of the national elite for years to come.
𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹.
Thrilled to announce head coach Kelly Graves has agreed to a contract extension that runs through 2028-29!
— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) December 30, 2020
Oregon State (3-3, 1-3). A bounce-back.
The Beavers’ resolution is to get back on the floor after their pause in team activities, which began on December 20, and rediscover their momentum after a three-game losing streak and a tumble out of the national rankings. Oregon State’s games this weekend against UCLA and USC have been postponed indefinitely.
Stanford (7-0, 4-0). Find their way home.
The No. 1 Cardinal has played at Maples Pavilion only once so far this season, to open the season in November, and with public health restrictions preventing them from returning to campus without having to quarantine, the long road trip continues this week in Arizona. Plans are underway to determine where the Cardinal will play next week’s “home” games against the Oregon schools.
They call it the season of giving 🤗
— Stanford Women’s Basketball (@StanfordWBB) December 22, 2020
UCLA (5-2, 3-2). A breakthrough.
The 11th-ranked Bruins’ only two losses this season have come at the hands of ranked teams - Arizona and Stanford. And next up is Sunday’s matchup in Eugene against No. 8 Oregon. Following that matchup, UCLA will play seven of its nine games at home.
USC (3-4, 1-4). An opportunity.
The Women of Troy have a two-game winning streak heading to Oregon and are coming off an efficient 50 percent shooting night against Long Beach State, including eight 3-pointers. After facing the Ducks, USC will play four in a row at home with a chance to improve their spot in the Pac-12 standings. Two straight 20-point games by senior forward Jordan Sanders gives Mark Trakh’s team a strong scoring option.
Utah (2-4, 1-4). Redemption.
Losing four of five games to start the Pac-12 season isn’t what the Utes, a team with designs on finishing in the top half of the conference standings, were hoping for. Offensively, Utah needs to pick up the pace, shooting 36 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Washington (4-3, 1-3). A chance.
The Huskies have lost three of their first four conference games, including lopsided scores to Stanford and Oregon. Those three losses are against teams with a combined record of 18-1. Washington, playing with just nine healthy bodies, will face Colorado on Friday, a game they have beaten 12 of their last 14 matchups.
Washington State (4-1, 2-1). Taking the unexpected path.
Picked to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, the Cougars are the surprise of the season thus far, defeating Oregon State and taking Oregon to the wire. Freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker, who ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 18.8 points per game is one of the breakout players of the season so far.