And yet as the Huskies prepared to depart Monday afternoon for this week's Pacific-12 Conference tournament, while still harboring realistic hopes of a bid to the National Invitational Tournament that begins next week, the 2011-12 season already felt like a huge step in the right direction.
The 16-12 regular season that was completed with a Saturday afternoon win over UCLA included the most wins and the first winning record since 2006-07, when UW went 18-13 and made its last trip to the NCAA tournament.
"We've definitely taken a big step," said sophomore guard Mercedes Wetmore, the only UW player who played significant minutes last season and this season and has eligibility remaining in 2012-13.
While the Huskies lose four productive seniors from this year's team, including leading scorer and all-conference player Regina Rogers, a precedent has been set for what UW expects in the future.
"For the future, we'll expect nothing less than that," Wetmore said of having a record over .500 this season. "We want to be known as one of the most powerful programs on the West Coast. We've put in some good work this year, and we're only going to be working harder and harder this offseason to make sure that next year is even more impactful."
McGuff, who coached top-25 teams and annual NCAA tournament participants at Xavier before coming west to try and resurrect a struggling UW program, said this year's team met some of his expectations for Year 1.
"My goals were to have a winning record and to help the seniors have the best year that they've ever had -- and we've done that," he said. "I also wanted to put ourselves in position to be in postseason play; we've done that also. We'll see what happens in terms of how all that shakes out."
The Huskies tied for seventh in the Pac-12 and will carry a No. 8 seed into this week's conference tournament. UW will play Oregon on Wednesday and hopes to have a date with regular-season Pac-12 champion and national title contender Stanford in Thursday's second round if the Huskies can beat the Ducks.
The Women's NIT is also a possibility, as that lesser tournament included a Cal team last season that had a similar record to what UW accomplished in the regular season.
Regardless of how the Huskies fare in the Pac-12 tournament and whether they play on past that, the 2011-12 season appears to be a big step in the right direction.
"This program is in good hands," senior Mollie Williams said. "I think they'll excel into greatness and get back to what it used to be or greater. The girls that come in here next year and the years to come are going to have a good coach -- a great coach."
As for the present, Williams is satisfied with how she's going to go out.
"We're above .500, so I'm good," she said Monday. "And we're continually getting better. With how things went this year, I'm pretty happy."
Rogers, Davis honored
For the third year in a row, the Huskies had a player named to the first team all-conference team Monday.
Rogers, who led the conference in field-goal percentage (60.8) and ranked third in scoring (16.3 points per game) and sixth in rebounding (8.4 per game), was one of 15 players named to the media's all-Pac-12 team.
Current teammate Kristi Kingma, who is sitting out this season with a knee injury, earned the honor last season. Sami Whitcomb was named all-Pac-10 in 2009-10.
Statistically, Rogers is more deserving than either of those players and may well have been the conference's most productive player not named Ogwumike. Sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford are All-America candidates and far and away the best 1-2 punch in the Pac-12.
While recent Huskies made the all-Pac-12 team in part because of its come-one-come-all inclusion of 15 players, Rogers was one of the top five players in the conference this season and had one of the best seasons by a UW player in the past few years.
Also earning Pac-12 honors Monday was UW point guard Jazmine Davis, who was named the conference's top freshman. Davis ranked fourth in the conference, and first among freshmen, in scoring at 16.4 points per game.
Other top media awards went to Nnemkadi Ogwumike (player of the year, co-defensive player of the year), USC's Briana Gilbreath (co-defensive player of the year) and Oregon State coach Scott Rueck (coach of the year).
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