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Doss: The Push Never Stops for Pac-12 WBB

Week 3 — Signing Day; On the Court; Rankings; Players of Week; Up Next

Arizona's Aari McDonald drives against Santa Clara on Nov. 8. | Mike Mattina/Arizona Athletics


By Kim Doss, SportsPac12


T
he second week of November is a time of hope for teams across the country. The regular season is still new, and fans get an idea of what the future of their teams will look like as national letters of intent start coming in. As has been the case in recent years, top players and top classes popped up all over the Pac-12.

Then came the games.

Signing Day

The Oregon Ducks are number one in the polls. They are also number one in ESPN’s recruiting rankings.

Oregon joined Stanford, California and Utah in the Top 20 of the first class rankings of the season. A few classes around the country are not yet complete, but it certainly speaks well for the future of the Conference.

The top-ranked Ducks signed five players. All five of them are five-star recruits. In essence, they signed a complete starting rotation with three guards and two frontcourt prospects.

Eugene will welcome the No. 10, No. 15, No. 19, No. 24 and No. 33 recruits in the 2020 class, as per the HoopGurlz rankings.

After welcoming the No. 2 class in 2019, Stanford followed up with the No. 5 class in 2020. With only three players, it’s a much smaller group than the one that made its way to Palo Alto last year, but it covers the bases for the Cardinal.

Stanford recruit Cameron Brink. | Stanford Athletics

They didn’t get the No. 1 recruit for next year, but the No. 3 prospect, power forward Cameron Brink, signed her name for Stanford. Brink will be the top-ranked recruit to play in the Pac-12 next year. Tara VanDerveer and her staff also added a five-star point guard and a three-star small forward.

Perhaps most stunning was the class signed by California. Only four short months after getting the job, head coach Charmin Smith brought in the sixth-ranked class, which includes three five-star prospects.

Utah also took strong steps towards a rebuild with the No. 20 class. The Utes will welcome two four-star and one three-star recruit next season.

In all, the Conference signed 17 of the country’s top 100 high school players. Arizona, USC and Washington signed No. 22, No. 40 and No. 63, respectively.

On the Court

Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State and Arizona all had big games this week. The Beavers, the Cardinal and the Wildcats were able to take care of business, but the Sun Devils fell short.

No. 7 Oregon State grabbed the Preseason WNIT title with wins over No. 18 DePaul and a pesky Missouri State team. Once again, freshman Taylor Jones stood out, scoring 24 points against the Blue Demons.

OSU women's hoops team with 2019-20 WNIT trophy. | OSU Athletics

Arizona took to the road to face their first ranked non-conference opponent since 2010. In what should have been a test, the Wildcats completely dominated No. 22 Texas behind a school-record 44 points for Aari McDonald. It would mark the end of the Longhorns’ 77 straight weeks in the AP poll and Arizona’s first road win against a ranked team since they beat UCLA in 2004.

The Wildcats garnered national attention, getting named the NCAA Team of the Week. Their star guard was named the National Player of the Week by both ESPNW and the US Basketball Writers Association.

No. 3 Stanford was able to outlast Gonzaga in overtime on Sunday. The Bulldogs upset the Cardinal in Spokane last season, so it was some measure of revenge.

Arizona State took its No. 19 ranking on the road to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Despite getting four players in double digits, the Sun Devils couldn’t get the victory and found themselves tumbling out of the polls the next day. The biggest surprise was that ASU was unable to keep Minnesota from shooting 50 percent for the game.

In all, the conference went 15-3 for the week with everyone except Washington State in action.

In the Rankings

After Arizona dismantled Texas, many expected that they would join at least four of their fellow Pac-12 teams in the polls. When the AP Poll rolled out on Monday, they were surprisingly absent.


The Pac-12 was left with just four teams in the AP poll after ASU’s loss to Minnesota caused them to fall out. Oregon remained at the top with Stanford (3), Oregon State (7) and UCLA (11) joining them. Arizona and ASU were relegated to the “receiving votes” list.


The coaches were a little more impressed. The conference retained its five entries in the USA Today/WBCA Poll with Arizona (24) replacing ASU in the group. The Sun Devils were just outside, garnering enough votes to sit at No. 26. USC also received votes, giving the conference seven teams getting votes from the coaches.

Once again, Oregon remained the No. 1 team in the country. The coaches also had Stanford (3), Oregon State (5) and UCLA (11) on their ballots.

Players of the Week

Arizona’s McDonald wasn’t just recognized on the national stage. The media in the local markets were also duly impressed as they awarded her the Pac-12 Player of the Week award. It was her first this season and fourth overall.



Taylor Jones
In her two games, McDonald averaged 34 points, three rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. The guard wasn’t just prolific, though. She also shot 79.3 percent from the floor, hit 33.3 percent from the 3-point line, and went 20-for-20 from the free throw line. In her biggest test, she went 14-of-18 from the floor against Texas. 

For the second straight week, Oregon State’s Jones took Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors. The newcomer scored 14.7 ppg over three games. She added 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.  Jones also had her biggest game against the biggest competition. She put up a career-high 24 points against DePaul while adding nine rebounds and three blocks.

—Up Next—





No. 6 Texas A&M (3-0) at USC (3-1)
When: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 5:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. MT
Streaming: USC Live Stream

Most teams are in their pre-Thanksgiving schedule, which usually isn’t exciting for anyone outside their own fanbases. USC went a different way, taking on a Top 10 challenge.

The Trojans lost their last time out, dropping a 57-46 decision to a now 2-2 UC Santa Barbara. With the losses they took to transfer to graduation, it was obvious that USC was going to have some rebuilding to do this year, but the loss to the Gauchos was still a bit unexpected.

Texas A&M is not in a rebuilding stage. In fact, they were one of the four teams picked to play against USA Basketball earlier this month to help the women’s national team get ready for international competition.

A win would be a huge boost to the Trojans’ confidence and hopes for the postseason. Even a loss will help them to prepare for the Top 10 competition they will face in the conference, though. 


 

No. 20 Arkansas (4-0) at California (1-2)
When: Sunday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT
Streaming: Cal Live Stream
No one can say that the Golden Bears aren’t testing themselves in the pre-conference season.  After hosting San Diego State on Thursday, they will face their second Top 20 team this season.

Cal already knows that they can play with a top team. They visited No. 5 UConn and had one of the closest games in Storrs, Conn., in years the first week of the season.

Arkansas is a good team, but no one is going to mistake them for Connecticut. The Razorbacks went to the WNIT last season, losing in the third round. They have gone 4-0 in the early going, but they have yet to be tested. 

Add that the trip to Berkeley will be their first game away from Fayetteville, Ark., and the Golden Bears may be ready to get the upset. Their coach has certainly shown that she’s not going to concede anything to anyone on the recruiting trail or the court. If the team can follow that lead, they have a chance to surprise a few people.


Kim Doss (@KimDoss71) covers Pac-12 Women's Basketball for SportsPac12.com. 

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