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Oregon State women's basketball coach Scott Rueck and player Ruth Hamblin talk to reporters Wednesday at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco.
Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
Oregon State women’s basketball coach Scott Rueck and player Ruth Hamblin talk to reporters Wednesday at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — In a league that features five NCAA tournament teams, two Sweet 16 participants, and even the WNIT champion, it’s no small feat to earn the mantle of preseason favorite.

For Pac-12 women’s basketball, that honor goes to Oregon State.

The Beavers topped the league’s preseason coaches’ poll released Wednesday, collecting 11 of 12 first-place votes to outpace No. 2 Stanford by 17 points (121-104). Arizona State collected the other first-place vote and was slotted third at 102 points.

CU was tabbed ninth with 39 points, 13 points behind eighth-place Oregon and nine ahead of 10th-place Washington State.

“It’s a privilege to be the coach of this team,” said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck, whose club set a school record with 27 wins last year and is coming off its first Pac-12 regular season title. “This is an incredible group that has been pieced together with outstanding individuals.”

Grandma Normen

Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne had high praise for fifth-year senior Eliza Normen, a Monarch graduate.

Turner Thorne marveled at Normen’s perseverance after she tore her ACL during her senior season with the Coyotes and then tore her quad in her very first collegiate game in 2011, forcing Normen to take a redshirt season.

Ever since, Normen has been a steady presence for the Sun Devils, appearing in at least 31 games in each of the past three seasons and averaging 3.3 points off the bench a year ago. Last spring, Normen set an Arizona State single-game NCAA tournament record with five blocked shots in a first-round win against Ohio.

“If she’s healthy, she is really going to help us,” Turner Thorne said. “She looks really good right now. Her scoring, just everything about her game. We joke about calling her ‘grandma’ but she looks great.”

Found a home

Alexus Atchley played sparingly during her lone season with the CU Buffaloes in 2012-13, and that hasn’t changed since she transferred to Washington. Yet her dedication has paid off with the Huskies — first with a scholarship for the former walk-on, and then by being named one of the team’s co-captains for 2015-16.

Reigning Pac-12 scoring champ Kelsey Plum called Atchley “arguably the best teammate I’ve ever played with,” while coach Mike Neighbors indicated the former CU recruit might play a larger role this season as a senior.

“She impacted (us) the second she stepped on to our campus, off the court and on the court,” Neighbors said. “If she hadn’t had an injury last year, she was really fighting for playing time. But she had a really nagging hamstring injury. I would expect her minutes will be largely increased this year.”

Atchley played just 17 minutes over eight games for the Buffs during the 2012-13 season.

Quotable

“I was told red is a winter color. So my conference red will be much stronger than my preseason red.” First-year Utah coach Lynne Roberts, on updating her wardrobe to incorporate more Utah red after nine seasons at Pacific.

Notable

With the Washington men’s team opening the season against Texas in basketball-mad China, commissioner Larry Scott indicated the league is exploring the idea of playing a women’s game in China as well … Pac-12 coordinator of officials Violet Palmer discussed a few of the rules changes for 2015-16, most notably the women’s game’s move from two halves to four quarters.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07

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