If the non-conference portion of the season is any indication, this should be a highly competitive Pacific-10 Conference women’s basketball season.
Through Friday’s games, all 10 schools have winning records and have a combined 61-20 record. Washington coach June Daugherty said it speaks to the strength of the conference.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s great to see the success that everyone’s had. Several of the schools challenged themselves by playing great schedules. It’s been fun to watch.”
The record might be a little misleading. Against major conference opponents, Pac-10 teams are 13-13. Still, Stanford (11), Arizona State (15) and UCLA (22) are ranked in the most recent Associated Press poll, while Arizona, USC and Washington each received votes in the poll.
“It just shows the rest of the country how strong our conference is from one to ten,” Daugherty said. “Sometimes it can be hard to maintain those rankings during the season because we tend to beat up on each other so well in conference. So winning non-conference games becomes huge when it comes to the postseason because we could have very good teams in our league finish with 18 or 19 wins. To be able to point to what we’ve done out of conference helps a lot.”
Stanford, behind stars Candice Wiggins and Brooke Smith, was the clear favorite to win the conference in the preseason and is 4-2 after a difficult early schedule. The consensus was the veteran USC team, star-studded UCLA and Arizona State should be right behind the Cardinal. The Sun Devils have been most impressive, starting 8-1.
Using strong defense, Oregon also is 8-1 and expected to be in the league’s top tier. Arizona, recovering from the sudden preseason death of star Shawntinice Polk, and Washington are expected to battle for sixth and seventh, and three young teams – Cal, Washington State and Oregon State are picked at the bottom.
But Daugherty said she doesn’t expect there to be much difference between the top teams in the league and the bottom.
“It’s hard to say without having played anybody,” Daugherty said. “But I do think it’s anybody’s ballgame. There is no team that you look at and think are head and shoulders above everyone, and no one you look at and say there’s no way they can compete. There are 10 very good teams in this league and that should make for an exciting season.”