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Doss: Pac-12 WBB Steps into National Spotlight

This Week: The Pac-12 vs. USA Basketball; Regular Season Kicks Off

Posted on November 7, 2019

  By Kim Doss, SuperWest Sports

There was a time, not too long ago, when Pac-12 women’s basketball was not given much attention on the national stage. As Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne said last season, the league’s teams would show up at the NCAA Tournament, and the national media wouldn’t even know the best players. 

Those times are over.

As the League’s teams head into the regular season, they’ve already racked up a trove of preseason honors. Oregon is the preseason No. 1 in both major polls. Led by Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu, 19 Conference players made the preseason watch lists for the Naismith Women’s Starting Five honors. Those awards will be handed out in Los Angeles by the Women’s Basketball Coaching Association and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next spring.

The Conference also boasts the player widely seen as the best in the sport in Ionescu, as well as the nation’s leading returning scorer in Arizona’s Aari McDonald, and the country’s top recruit in Stanford’s Haley Jones. No less than three teams have Final Four potential. Anyone looking for both the best players and the best teams can no longer afford to ignore the West.

The Pac-12 vs. USA Basketball

Some of the teams will be getting things going for real beginning on Nov. 5, but the biggest shows may be the USA Basketball exhibitions being held in the arenas of the Pac-12’s top three teams. As the women’s national team prepares for the 2020 Olympics, they’re making their way to four college campuses to play the best competition they can find. Three of those stops are in Pac-12 cities.

Festivities kicked off on Saturday when USA Basketball took on the Stanford Cardinal. It was an opportunity for the No. 3 team in the country to demonstrate yet again that they never have to rebuild.

Tara VanDerveer’s squad lost one of the best players in the Conference, forward Alanna Smith, to the WNBA after last season. The Stanford brand counts for a lot, though.

Stanford’s Dijonai Carrington drives against UC Davis last year. | Cody Glenn/Getty Images

The Cardinal returns one of the nation’s best small forwards in DiJonai Carrington, one of the top shooting guards in Kiana Williams, and one of the best centers in Maya Dodson. Stanford also brings in the No. 2 class in the country, including three McDonald’s All-Americans. That adds up to the third-best team in the country, according to both the Associated Press and USA Today polls.

Stanford showed why they are considered a Final Four contender when they met the professionals on the court. Team USA only scored 15 points in the first quarter—falling behind by a score of 18-9 at one point—before eventually coming back to win 95-80. The best players in the world weren’t able to take control until well into the third quarter, leaning heavily on former Cardinal Nneka Ogwumike.

Oregon State was second up on the itinerary of USA Basketball on Nov. 4. Much like Stanford, the Beavers were able to keep it close for a half, but the odds were against them beating the best team in the world. The national team went on to take the exhibition 81-58.

USA Basketball will go on to face the preseason No. 1 Oregon Ducks in Eugene on Nov. 9.

The regular season kicks off



No one was harder on themselves when scheduling the opening week’s games than California. The Golden Bears will make return trips to Harvard and UConn for their first two games of the year. Both teams were victorious in Haas Pavilion last season—and that Bears team had Kristine Anigwe.

Cal is looking to find an identity this season as they adapt not only to the loss of Anigwe, but also to the loss of their head coach. Lindsey Gottlieb took an assistant coaching position with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the off season, leaving an opening for former assistant Charmin Smith

The Golden Bears also lost three other seniors, two transfers, and a recruit. Both transfers were former McDonald’s All-Americans. 

With over 80 percent of their scoring and 60 percent of their rebounding from last season now gone, Cal was picked to finish 11th in the conference by the coaches and 10th by the media.



Washington State—ranked 10th by the coaches and 11th by the media—also set themselves up with quite a task. The Cougars went just 9-21 last season and had only four wins in the Pac-12. Second-year head coach Kamie Ethridge still challenged her group with opening games against two teams who saw the postseason last year.

Seniors Borislava “Bobi Buckets” Hristova and Chanelle Molina will lead the Cougs against Pepperdine and BYU in the opening week. The Waves went 22-12, going out to Wyoming in the third round of the postseason WNIT. The Utah-based Cougars amassed 26 wins on their way to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They dropped just their seventh game of the year to Stanford to exit the postseason.

Eleven of the league’s 12 teams will open their regular season this week. The schedule keeps the best for last with Oregon holding off until week two to make its debut.

—More from Kim Doss—