John Bazemore/AP file photoAfter losing to Connecticut in the Final Four last season

John Bazemore/AP file photoAfter losing to Connecticut in the Final Four last season

Stanford picked to win Pac-12 regular-season crown

Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer's Stanford women's basketball team has been picked to win a 15th consecutive Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship.

A poll of the league coaches gave the Cardinal 116 points and seven first-place votes, the Pac-12 announced during its media day Wednesday. Bay Area rival Cal was chosen to finish in second place.

“Stanford is Stanford, they just kind of reload with more All-Americans,” said first-year Oregon coach Kelly Graves, who came to Eugene from a successful run at Gonzaga. “We've played them every single year for the last six to eight years. I always thought we had the two best programs on the West Coast and should have been playing. They show you everything you're weak at, they expose you for what you aren't.”

Despite losing Pac-12 Player of the Year and All-American Chiney Ogwumike to the WNBA, VanDerveer welcomes back 12 letterwinners from last season, when the Cardinal reached the Final Four for the sixth time in seven years.

With the Ogwumike sisters gone for the Cardinal, Washington coach Mike Neighbors figures the team might be overlooked nationally and surprise some people. Though the Cardinal will get a big opportunity on the national stage when they host two-time defending champion Connecticut on Nov. 17 at Maples Pavilion. Stanford also plays Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee in another daunting preseason schedule.

“They can hit you with a lot of different weapons,” Neighbors said. “They're still the champs until somebody knocks them off.”

Cal has been to the postseason in nine straight seasons, including the program's first Final Four berth in 2013 under coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Following the Golden Bears in the preseason poll are Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, USC, Arizona State, Washington State, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. UCLA, under fourth-year coach Cori Close, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and has the top recruiting class in the country.

Graves has made the jump from the dominant team in the West Coast Conference after 13 years at national power Gonzaga to the well-funded and supported Ducks program with a chance to make an immediate impact in the Pac-12.

“I don't care what anybody thinks. I know there are expectations,” Graves said. “Nobody puts higher expectations on a team than I do.”

Oregon State, looking to build off its first NCAA berth last spring since 1996, will play at Tennessee on Dec. 28 as its final tuneup before Pac-12 play begins.

“We're going into what I believe is the best conference in the country after that,” Beavers coach Scott Rueck said. “Here's another chance to test ourselves against the nation's elite to see where we stack up.”

Neighbors figures the Pac-12 winner won't go through the conference unscathed.

“There's no question the league's deeper than it has been in the last 10 years,” Neighbors said. “Our talent, coaching, opportunity is at an exciting time. The league is wide open … and with more potential than it's ever had in the last decade.”

CalCollege SportsPac-12 ConferenceStanford

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lowell High School is considered an academically elite public school. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Students denounce ‘rampant, unchecked racism’ at Lowell after slurs flood anti-racism lesson

A lesson on anti-racism at Lowell High School on Wednesday was bombarded… Continue reading

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23), shown here against the San Antonio Spurs at Chase Center on January 20, was ejected from Thursday night’s game on a technical foul after he yelled at a teammate during a play. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors 119-101 loss to Knicks highlights Draymond Green’s value

Team struggles with fouls, lack of discipline in play

Scooter companies have expanded their distribution in neighborhoods such as the Richmond and Sunset districts. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board signs off on changes to scooter permit program

Companies will gete longer permits, but higher stakes

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

Most Read