What a difference a few months make. In November, the Pac-10 was touting its women’s basketball teams as some of the best in the nation. It had good reason to be optimistic. Five teams were ranked in the pre-season coaches’ poll and a resurgent California team was going to contend for a conference title. Things haven’t worked out that way.
Now, the teams are nearly a third of the way through the conference season and losses, not wins, seem to be the norm. There is only one undefeated team (Stanford at 5-0) and three losses are good enough to get you fourth place.
Washington and Arizona State each have one loss and the top three teams seem to be in a league of their own. USC, UCLA, Cal, Oregon, and Oregon State already have three losses, the Cats have four, and Washington State has stumbled to a 1-5 start. What does this mean to the Wildcats? It means that a terrible beginning still provides hope.
Arizona, right now, is simply not as good as Stanford, ASU, or Washington. But what Joan Bonvicini’s team needs to do is prove it can play with the rest of the pack. This week will provide such an opportunity. The Wildcats head to Oregon to play two average teams. Two wins would shoot Arizona into, at the very worst a tie for seventh and at the very best, into fourth or fifth place.
Last season, the Pac-10 sent six teams into the NCAA Tournament. That won’t happen this year. However, four teams could get the nod. So, there will be a fierce battle for fourth place. Cal is certainly the best of the rest but what’s happened to a team that many thought would take another step in its development? A key injury and a lack of depth are to blame and now Joann Boyle will have to rethink her team’s goals. UCLA has been inconsistent, losing to Oregon State at home, and USC has everyone scratching their heads. Oregon and Oregon State haven’t proved anything.
Arizona’s games in Oregon are vitally important. If they can find a way to get to 3-4 before the L.A. schools roll in to finish the first half of conference play, then good things can still happen. They can beat both of those teams and a 5-4 finish after nine games would be a tremendous accomplishment. It is possible. But in order to step up to this level the Cats need to score more points, clean up their turnovers and get more consistent play in the post. I’m not sure that all of this is possible, but it’s fun to think about.
After all, a few months has made a big difference. The Cats beat Washington State on Saturday and are still very much in contention for a place in the top-tier of the Pac-10. The Oregon Trail will tell the story. Stay tuned.
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Each Wildcat Game is heard live on AM 1400 KTUC.
To find out more about Paul visit his website at: http://www.pauldanieljohnson.net.