Nearing the mid-point of the Pac-12 Conference schedule, the standings in women's basketball confirm what most coaches have felt all along: the conference is better than it was a year ago.

No. 4 Stanford (18-2, 7-1 in Pac-12) and No. 6 California (17-2, 7-1) are leading the way, but they aren't alone in providing the Pac-12 with some national muscle.

No. 18 UCLA (15-4, 6-2) and No. 22 Colorado (15-4, 4-4) are also gaining national attention, while Washington (14-5, 6-2) and USC (8-11, 5-3) are hoping that strong showings in conference play can get them to the postseason.

"Our conference is definitely among the tops in the country and teams are showing you that," USC coach Michael Cooper said during a teleconference with Pac-12 coaches on Tuesday. "At 5-3 (in the Pac-12), I feel we easily could have been 7-1, but that shows you the depth and quality of our conference right now, and I'm loving it."

Great results during non-conference play helped the Pac-12 earn some respect early on. Since conference play began, the top teams have continued to shine.

Stanford and Cal have defeated each other once. UCLA and Colorado have a combined six conference losses, but all of those have come against the two Bay Area powers.

Washington won't face Stanford and Cal until the final weekend of the season, but by then, the Huskies could be approaching the 20-win mark.


Cooper's team at USC has an uphill battle after losing 11 games already (including five to ranked opponents), but he isn't giving up hope of finishing strong and making a run at an automatic NCAA Tournament berth by winning the conference tournament.

"You're looking at, I think right now, a minimum of four teams and hopefully maybe five or six could be invited to the NCAA Tournament," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said.

A year ago, Stanford and Cal were the only Pac-12 teams to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Praising the Buffs

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb is 2-0 against Colorado this year, but both games came down to the wire, so she knows how good the Buffaloes can be.

"I think they're really good," she said. "They're very balanced; I think the backcourt is extremely athletic, I think they're terrific in transition. They play hard. I think they're a legitimate top 20 team.

"They're deserving of their ranking and I'm hoping that they're able to make a significant postseason run in the NCAA Tournament, because they're capable of it."

Harberts on a roll

On Sunday, Colorado will have to contend with Southern Cal forward Cassie Harberts.

The 6-foot-2 junior is averaging 18.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, taking a giant leap forward from last year, when she posted 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Since Pac-12 play began, Harberts has been especially good. She is averaging 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in eight Pac-12 games. She also has seven double-doubles this season, three of those in conference play.

"In my book, she probably would be up for Pac-12 player of the year," Trojans coach Michael Cooper said.

Huge loss for Utah

Last Friday, Utah (10-9, 1-7) lost star forward Taryn Wicijowski when she tore the meniscus in her right knee against Stanford. She had surgery on Tuesday.

"We'll find out later on how long the range is for her to be out," Utes coach Anthony Levrets said.

Wicijowski, who tore the ACL in her right knee two years ago, is averaging 14.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and has been quite a handful for Colorado over the past two years.

Sun Devils growing up

Arizona State (11-9, 3-5) came into the year with four new starters. After an 8-4 record in non-conference play, the Sun Devils had to take that inexperienced group on the road for six of their first eight Pac-12 games. They went 1-5 in those games.

"Just getting a little bit better, getting a little tougher," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We're really looking forward to having some home games in the second half and just growing this young group that we have."

ASU will be on its home floor for seven of its final 10 regular season games and has to leave the state just one more time (for a weekend visit to California and Stanford).

Cougars coming up short

Washington State (6-13, 2-6) finally won a close game by beating Oregon State in overtime on Sunday.

The Cougars opened the season with back-to-back overtime losses and have suffered seven other losses by eight points or less.

"Our next step right now is to close out some of the close games," coach June Daugherty said. "We've obviously been a turnover or a shot or an overtime or double-overtime away from winning some of the games we're capable of and we want to keep improving.


After a 9-1 start to the season, Utah is 1-8 in its past nine games. ... Washington's Jazmine Davis missed both games last weekend with a head injury. Huskies head coach Kevin McGuff is optimistic Davis, who is second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.4 points per game, will return Friday at Arizona. ... On Friday at Southern Cal, Turner Thorne picked up her 300th victory as Arizona State head coach. She is 300-188 at ASU and 340-228 for her career. ... Like ASU, Arizona (11-8, 3-5) played six of its first eight on the road, going 2-4 in those games.

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