SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The reigning NCAA champion Stanford women’s basketball team was picked to win the Pac-12 regular-season title in a preseason poll of conference coaches.
Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s team captured the NCAA title last spring for the first time since 1992 and third in program history — topping fellow Pac-12 opponent Arizona in the championship game.
The Cardinal earned 11 first-place votes for 121 total points in the poll announced Tuesday.
Oregon was chosen second after a run to the Sweet 16 and received a first-place vote from VanDerveer. She can’t pick her own team. UCLA was third in the poll, while Oregon State was picked fourth and Arizona fifth. Washington State is predicted sixth after the Cougars reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years.
UCLA will play at Connecticut on Dec. 11 during the nonconference schedule — a common theme for Pac-12 coaches who regularly have their teams face top opponents in the country during the preseason to prepare.
“But make no mistake about it, the Pac-12 is our focus and we know that if we’re able to survive and thrive in the Pac-12 grind, that the NCAA Tournament will be, I’m not going to say a walk in the park, but a whole lot easier,” 11th-year Bruins coach Cori Close said.
Rounding out the poll are: Colorado at seventh, followed by Arizona State, USC, Utah, Washington and California.
Stanford is back atop the preseason poll after Oregon held the spot the past two years. The Cardinal were picked first for 15 straight years from 2000 to 2015.
“This conference somehow found a way to get tougher in the two years I was gone,” said first-year USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb, the former Cal coach who spent two seasons as an NBA assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25