Pac-12 Women's Basketball projections

Brian Howell's projected order of finish

1. Stanford

2. Oregon State

3. California

4. Arizona State


6. USC

7. Washington

8. Oregon

9. Arizona

10. Colorado

11. Utah

12. Washington State

Preseason projections

Media poll

1. Oregon State

2. Arizona State

3. Stanford

4. California


6. Washington

7. USC

8. Oregon

9. Colorado

10. Washington State

11. Utah

12. Arizona

Coaches poll

1. Oregon State

2. Stanford

3. Arizona State

T4. California


6. Washington

7. USC

8. Oregon

9. Colorado

10. Washington State

11. Utah

12. Arizona

Arizona Wildcats

Record: 9-3

Coach: Niya Butts, eighth season (98-131)

Rankings: No. 60 RPI

The good: After winning just 10 games all of last year, the Wildcats have nearly reached that mark already this season. Redshirt freshman Taryn Griffey, the daughter of former baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., missed the last three seasons with injuries, but is averaging 11.1 points and ranks first in the conference in 3-point percentage. The roster was bolstered recently with the return of 6-foot-1 junior LaBrittney Jones, a regular who missed the first eight games with a foot injury.


The bad: The schedule gets a whole lot tougher in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats' best win so far came in the opener against Toledo. While the defense has been solid so far, it'll be interesting to see how they play against better teams. Offensively, Arizona ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring, and they have been terrible at the free throw line.

Postseason projection: None.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Record: 9-3

Coach: Charli Turner-Thorne, 19th season (363-216; 403-256 career)

Rankings: No. 17 AP, No. 21 USA Today Coaches; No. 19 RPI

The good: After making a Sweet 16 run a year ago, the Sun Devils have been one of the nation's best teams, with two losses coming against top-7 teams (Kentucky and South Carolina) by a combined six points. They've taken on one of the country's toughest nonconference schedules, despite having a pair of starters out with injuries for several games (both are back). This is a good defensive team that has a knack for winning the turnover battle and they bring a six-game winning streak into conference play.

The bad: Offensively, this is a not a team that scares anybody. ASU is 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring and field-goal percentage. The scoring is balanced (four players averaging between 9.8 and 10.8 points), but so far a go-to player has yet to emerge. Struggles on offense have contributed to all three of ASU's losses thus far.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament Round of 32

California Bears

Record: 8-2

Coach:: Lindsay Gottlieb, fifth season (111-36; 167-75 career)

Rankings: No. 19 AP; No. 18 USA Today Coaches; No. 41 RPI

The good: Freshman Kristine Anigwe, a 6-foot-4 forward, has taken the conference by storm, already winning freshman of the week honors five times. She's posted double-doubles in five of her last six games and ranks among the top five in the Pac-12 in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage. Junior Courtney Range might be the most improved player in the conference this year. Led by that duo, Cal is off to a good start despite losing its three best players (two to the WNBA, one dismissed from the team).

The bad: Defense has been rough so far for the Bears. They are last in the Pac-12 in points allowed and field-goal percentage defense. Despite their size, they aren't an exceptional rebounding team, either. Cal has the talent to reach the NCAA Tournament for a fifth consecutive season, but has to find a way to shore up its defense and rebounding.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament round of 32

Colorado Buffaloes

Record: 5-6

Coach: Linda Lappe, sixth season (103-75; 153-111 career)

Rankings: No. 127 RPI

The good: Senior Jamee Swan has been one of the best players in the Pac-12 and there is a lot of young talent on the roster. There's a lot of room for growth on this team. CU can be a dangerous team because it shoots the ball well — ranking third in the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage and second in free-throw percentage. There is hope that the Buffs will be ready for the Pac-12 because they've been battle-tested, playing a schedule that ranks among the toughest in the country thus far.

The bad: That tough schedule and inexperienced youth has led to CU bringing the Pac-12's only losing record into January. Better teams have had their way with the Buffs, and that's a problem against a conference loaded with better teams. To this point, CU has been average to below-average in most important areas of the game. That won't cut it if the Buffs are to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Postseason projection: None

Oregon Ducks

Record: 11-0

Coach: Kelly Graves, second season (24-17; 406-179 career)

Rankings: Receiving votes AP and USA Today Coaches; No. 110 RPI

The good: A winner of 10 consecutive conference titles at Gonzaga before coming to Eugene, Graves is doing a remarkable job already with the Ducks. Senior forward Jillian Alleyne might be the best player in the conference; she's had a double-double in every game. The Ducks have the Pac-12's best offense and they can score in a variety of ways. They're also No. 2 in the Pac-12 in rebounding.

The bad: While Oregon has beaten everybody on the schedule, it's been an extremely weak schedule. ranks Oregon's strength of schedule at 347th, out of 349 Division I teams. The nonconference surely gave this team some confidence, but to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, the Ducks need to prove they can beat legitimate competition in the Pac-12.

Postseason projection: NIT

Oregon State Beavers

Record: 9-2

Coach: Scott Rueck, fifth season (99-73; 387-161 career)

Rankings: No. 10 AP; No. 10 USA Today Coaches; No. 73 RPI

The good: Four starters are back from last year's Pac-12 title team, and the Beavers might have the best starting five in the conference. OSU shoots the ball well, leads the conference in field-goal percentage defense and rebounds better than anyone in the conference. Individually, Jamie Weisner, Sydney Wiese and Ruth Hamblin are as good as anyone in the Pac-12.

The bad: There's not a lot to dislike about this team. Right now, the biggest concern for OSU is that Weise injured her non-shooting hand during a loss to Tennessee on Dec. 19 and has missed the last two games (including a one-point loss at Notre Dame on Monday). She is out for an "indefinite" period of time.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Stanford Cardinal

Record: 10-2

Coach: Tara Vanderveer, 29th season (811-168; 963-219 career)

Rankings: No. 11 AP; No. 11 USA Today Coaches; No. 3 RPI

The good: Juniors Lili Thompson and Erica McCall are Vanderveer's latest stars. That duo has been remarkable so far in keeping the Cardinal among the nation's elite. Beyond those two, they've got three others averaging at least 7.5 points per game. Stanford's defense has been very good, as usual, and that gives them a good chance against anybody.

The bad: The Cardinal have not been dominant on the boards (ranking 10th in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin), and the offense has decent. The Cardinal are middle of the pack in shooting and scoring. The defense makes up for that a lot of times, but they'll need to generate better offense to win consistently against great teams.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament Elite 8

UCLA Bruins

Record: 8-3

Coach: Cori Close, fifth season (80-63)

Rankings: No. 21 AP; Receiving votes USA Today Coaches; No. 37 RPI

The good: The Bruins have been on an up-and-down ride for about five years now. After winning the WNIT last year, they are off to a good start. The three losses have come against elite teams (South Carolina, Notre Dame and Cal), with two in overtime and another by just three points. This is a battle-tested team and with sophomore point guard Jordin Canada leading a talented roster, this could be a very good season.

The bad: While they have had several close losses to great teams, they are still losses. The Bruins haven't shown the ability to close out a big game yet. At some point, they're going to need to do that if they want to make this a special season.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament Round of 32

USC Trojans

Record: 12-0

Coach: Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, third season (49-28; 199-134 career).

Rankings: Receiving votes AP and USA Today Coaches; No. 2 RPI

The good: The Trojans have been perfect and have done it against a schedule that ranks among the 30 toughest in the country. The Trojans' main source of success has been their defense; they rank first in the Pac-12 — and sixth nationally — in points allowed. USC has had several players step up this season, especially sophomore forward Kristen Simon, who has significantly raised her scoring (from 6.7 ppg last year to 13.5) and rebounding (from 5.5 to 8.4).

The bad: Hard to complain about a perfect start. If there's anything to complain about, it's that the Trojans haven't faced much adversity and they haven't faced a significant test yet, so it's difficult to know just how good they are. While the schedule rates as tough, they have not seen a Top 25 team.

Postseason projection: NCAA Tournament Round of 32

Utah Utes

Record: 7-3

Coach: Lynne Roberts, first season (7-3; 228-180 career)

Rankings: No. 112 RPI

The good: After back-to-back 11th-place finishes, the Utes hired Roberts, and she appears to be off to a good start. Utah has gained some confidence with its start. The return of 6-foot-5 sophomore Emily Potter (who missed last year with an injury) has been huge. She is seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.7 ppg) and second in rebounding (12.0).

The bad: Winning nonconference games against a soft schedule is one thing. Now this team needs to figure out how to find success against the Pac-12. The Utes are not great at any one thing, but the fact that they rank last in turnover margin (minus-6.4) is a concern as conference play starts.

Postseason projection: None

Washington Huskies

Record: 9-2

Coach: Mike Neighbors, third season (52-25)

Rankings: No. 34 RPI

The good: Junior guard Kelsey Plum leads the country in scoring (27.6 ppg) and senior forward Talia Walton (18.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg) is also one of the Pac-12's best players. They have helped Washington get off to a great start, and they give the Huskies a chance to win every night. So does the defense, which ranks among the best in the Pac-12.

The bad: As good as Plum is, this is not a great offensive team. The Huskies are 10th in Pac-12 in field-goal percentage and last in assists. Even if Plum explodes, the Huskies can be beat if opponents lock down everybody around her.

Postseason projection: NIT

Washington State Cougars

Record: 9-2

Coach: June Daugherty, ninth season (99-162; 413-376 career)

Rankings: No. 42 RPI

The good: Despite losing their two best players from last year to graduation, the Cougars have piled up nine wins. Borislava Hristova, from Bulgaria, has been one of the Pac-12's best freshmen, averaging 18.2 points. Defensively, the Cougars have been solid and they've done a nice job of forcing turnovers.

The bad: Like a few other teams in the conference, the Cougars have fattened up on a weak schedule. There are some troubling numbers that suggest this team will have a tough time sustaining their success. They are not very good on offense as a unit, and beyond Hristova have no other big scoring threats. The Cougars are last in the Pac-12 in rebounding and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Postseason projection: None