Editor’s note: This article is part of the Star’s 2018-19 college basketball guide, which ran in Sunday’s paper.
Star contributor PJ Brown previews the Pac-12, with teams listed in order of her preseason predictions.
Coach: Kelly Graves (520-249 overall in 25 seasons; 93-47 in four seasons at Oregon)
2017-18 record: 33-5 overall, 16-2 Pac-12 (1st); lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight
Key returners: G Sabrina Ionescu (19.7 ppg, 7.8 apg), F Ruthy Hebard (17.6 ppg, 9 rpg), G Maite Cazorla (10.9 ppg, 4.8 apg), F Satou Sabally (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), F Oti Gildon (4.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Key losses: G Lexi Bando (10.2 ppg), Mallory McGwire (4.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, transfer to Boise State), F Sierra Campisano (2.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, transfer to Cal Poly), G Aina Ayuso (2.2 ppg, 1.2 apg, playing professionally in Spain), G Anelli Maley (2.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, transfer to TCU)
Key additions: F Erin Boley (6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, transfer from Notre Dame), F Nyara Sabally (three-star freshman, will sit out with knee injury this season), G Taylor Chavez (four-star freshman, Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year at Surprise Valley Vista High School)
What to expect: The Ducks are primed to repeat as Pac-12 champs, in part because they have two of the best players in the country — Ionescu and Hebard. This summer they won the USA Basketball’s 3-on-3 national championship with teammates Boley and Gildon. Add Sabally — reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year — to the mix, and the Ducks are in the driver’s seat. The only thing besides Stanford and Oregon State standing in the way of the league title could be the Ducks’ depth. Four players left the program during the offseason, and Sabally suffered an injury during the FIBA U18 European Championships. Oregon is a little short-handed.
Coach: Tara VanDerveer (1,036-242 overall in 39 seasons; 884-191 in 32 seasons at Stanford)
2017-18 record: 24-11, 14-3 in Pac-12 (2nd); lost to Louisville in NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16
Key returners: G Alanna Smith (13.5 ppg, 7 rpg), G Marta Sniezek (5.5 ppg, 4.3 apg), G Kiana Williams (10.4 ppg, 1.9 apg), G Dijonai Carrington (8.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Key losses: G Brittany McPhee (16.7, 5.4 rpg), F Kaylee Johnson (5.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
Key additions: G Jenna Brown (five-star freshman), F Lacie Hull (three-star freshman; ESPN’s 14th best wing in 2018 class), F Lexie Hull (five-star freshman)
What to expect: What will this Cardinal team look like? Another well-coached, experienced team from VanDerveer. Smith, who was the only college student on Australia’s Senior Women’s team that lost in the finals of FIBA World Cup to Team USA in August, looks to lead the squad. This year’s team is deep and competitive in practice — each player is pushing for playing time, including top freshmen Hull and Brown (U18 USA National Team).
Coach: Scott Rueck (467-175 overall in 21 seasons; 179-88 in eight seasons at Oregon State)
2017-18 record: 26-8 overall, 14-4 Pac-12 (T-3); lost to Louisville in NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight
Key returners: G Katie McWilliams (8.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Mikayla Pivec (11.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), C Joanna Grymek (3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G Kat Tudor (12 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Key losses: C Marie Gulich (17.5 ppg and 9.1 rpg; played with Phoenix Mercury in WNBA), G Taylor Kalmer (6 ppg, transfer to San Diego State)
Key additions: G Destiny Slocum (Maryland transfer); F Patricia Morris (three-star freshman), F Andrea Aquino (five-star freshman, No. 6 overall recruit), G Jasmine Simmons (freshman from Australia who collected more than 3,000 points and 2,000 rebounds in high school)
What to expect: Rueck has reloaded after losing a top player to graduation, with the most recent being Gulich. Slocum, the Maryland transfer who was national freshman of the year two years ago, is ready to go. She’ll give the Beavers more versatility with four guards, though how Rueck will actually use her is still to be determined. Oregon State has three bigs — all 6 feet 7 inches or taller — that everyone is talking about. Aquino is 6-9, the same height as WNBA superstar Brittney Griner.
Coach: Lindsay Gottlieb (215-115 overall record in 10 seasons, 159-76 in seven seasons at Cal)
2017-18 record: 21-11 overall, 11-7 Pac-12 (5th); lost to Virginia in NCAA Tournament’s first round
Key returners: C/F Kristine Anigwe (16.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg), G Asha Thomas (12.8 ppg, 3.5 apg), G/F Jaelyn Brown (6.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg), C CJ West (4.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg), G Kiana Smith (8.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg; All freshman team)
Key losses: G/F Mikayla Cowling (9.3 ppg, 4.2 apg; drafted by Connecticut Sun); F Penina Davidson (7.4 ppg, 7 rpg)
Key additions: G Recce Caldwell (Grad transfer from Texas Tech), G McKenzie Forbes (five-star freshman, McDonald’s All-American)
What to expect: With Thomas and Anigwe as seniors and leaders, this team has more versatility and depth than in the past. During the offseason, Gottlieb showed her team numbers indicating what it takes to be a top 16, 8, and 4 team in the country. This has given them a more focused approach to each possession, practice, and workout. Look for Cal to possibly crack the big three — Oregon, Stanford, and Oregon State — this season and go far in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Cori Close (150-86 overall as head coach in seven seasons at UCLA)
2017-18 record: 27-8 overall, 14-4 Pac-12 (T-3); lost to Mississippi State in NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight
Key returners: F Lajahna Drummer (6.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg), G Kennedy Burke (10.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg), G Japreece Dean (7.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg), F Michaela Onyenwere (6.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Key losses: G Jordin Canada (17 ppg, 7.1 apg; played for Seattle Storm in WNBA), F Monique Billings (15.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg; played for Atlanta Dream in WNBA), G Kelli Hayes (6.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Key additions: G Ahlana Smith (five-star freshman)
What to expect: With Canada and Billings gone, the Bruins will look different. Instead of the ball coming through those two, the system will involve more passing and more 3-pointers. Look for UCLA to rely on seniors Drummer, Burke and Dean.
Coach: Charli Turner Thorne (462-286 overall in 24 seasons, 422-246 in 21 seasons at ASU)
2017-18 record: 22-13, 10-8 Pac-12 (6th); lost to Texas in NCAA Tournament’s second round
Key returners: G Reili Richardson (5.7 ppg, 4.7 apg), G/F Courtney Emark (9.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), C Charnea Johnson-Chapman (6.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg), F Kiana Ibis (12.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Robbi Ryan (10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Key losses: G Sabrina Haines (transfer to Kentucky)
Key additions: G Taya Hanson (four-star freshman), Jamie Loera (three-star freshman), Iris Mbulito (MVP of Spain’s U20 team that won FIBA European Championship title)
What to expect: Four things: More depth, more experience, more aggressiveness on defense — that’s what the Sun Devils are known for — and more shooting.
Coach: Mark Trakh (413-278 in 23 seasons, 110-75 in 6 seasons at USC)
2017-18 record: 20-11, 9-9 Pac-12 (7th)
Key returners: G Minyon Moore (13.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 5.3 apg), G Aliyah Mazyck (16.5 ppg, .4 rpg)
Key losses: G Sadie Edwards (12.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg), F Kristen Simon (17 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
Key additions: G Mariya Moore (transfer from Louisville), F Chayanne Wallace (grad transfer from LMU; 13.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), G Desire Caldwell (four-star freshman; USA U18 National Team), F Jillian Archer (four-star freshman), F Kayla Overbeck (transfer from Vanderbilt)
What to expect: The Trojans just missed out on the NCAA Tournament last season, and are extra motivation at the start of 2018-19. The backcourt duo of Moore and Mazyck brings energy and tight defense, and three transfers — Walker, Overbeck and Moore — will have a major impact.
Coach: Adia Barnes (20-30 in two seasons as head coach at Arizona)
2017-18 record: 6-24, 2-16 Pac-12 (11th)
Key returners: G Lucia Alonso (7.9 ppg, 3.3 apg), F Sam Thomas (10.2 ppg, 7 rpg), F Destiny Graham (8.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Key losses: G JaLea Bennett (13.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), F Kat Wright (7.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg), G Marlee Kyles (8.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg; left team this summer)
Key additions: F Cate Reese (Five-star freshman; McDonald’s All-American), C Semaj Smith (five-star freshman), G Bryce Nixon (four-star freshman), Shalyse Smith (four-star freshman), G Aari McDonald (transfer from UW), F Dom McBryde (transfer from Purdue), F Tee Tee Starks (transfer from Iowa State)
What to expect: Year 3 of Barnes’ rebuild is about more wins and a more exciting style of play. The system should include a faster-paced offense and more aggressiveness on defense. McDonald brings speed and quickness and knows how to win in the Pac-12. Reese, UA’s first McDonald’s All-American, is ready to put her stamp on the program. And Thomas, one of the best freshmen in the Pac-12 a year ago, is back and looking to add onto last year’s highlight reel.
Coach: Lynne Roberts (273-219 overall in 16 seasons, 52-44 in three seasons at Utah)
2017-18 record: 18-14, 8-10 Pac-12 (8th)
Key returners: F Daneesha Provo (12.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), F Megan Huff (14.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
Key losses: C Emily Potter (12.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg as senior; All-Pac-12), G Tori Williams (9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg as a freshman; transferred to Colorado State)
Key additions: G Sarah Porter (grad transfer from UCSB), F Lola Pendande (four-star freshman)
What to expect: Utah is always a tough “out” in conference play, and little changes with a mix of experience and new talent. However, with the loss of Potter — Utah’s all-time leader in blocks — to graduation and sophomore Maurane Corbin to a torn ACL, the Utes will have to adjust to not having a traditional center. Complicating matters: Four-star freshman Lola Pendande hasn’t been cleared to enroll in school yet. The Spanish phenom won’t be in uniform until December at the earliest.
Coach: JR Payne (133-145 overall in nine seasons, 32-32 in two seasons at Colorado)
2017-18 record: 15-16, 5-13 Pac-12 (9th)
Key returners: G Alexis Robinson (12.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), G Kennedy Leonard (14.7 ppg, 6.5 apg), G Quinessa Caylao-Do (6.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), F Annika Jank (9.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G/F Mya Hollingshed (6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Key losses: G Brecca Thomas (5.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg), C Zoe Correal (5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Janea Bunn (9.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg; left team in January)
Key additions: G Emma Clarke (freshman from Australia), F Sirena Tuitele (three-star freshman)
What to expect: Two words: Guard play. Robinson and Leonard are the top 1-2 combo in the league. For the Buffs to move up in the Pac-12, Jank and Hollingshed — both sophomores — need to be consistent throughout the season. Last year, Jank started on a tear then faded while Hollingshed finished the season strong.
Coach: Kamie Ethridge (83–44 overall in four seasons, first year at WSU)
2017-18 record: 10-20, 3-14 (10th)
Key returners: F Borislava Hristova (17.8 ppg, 4 rpg), G Alexis Swedlund (9.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G Chanelle Molina (7.7 ppg, 2.9 apg), C Maria Kostourkova (5.5 ppg, 4 rpg)
Key losses: F Louise Brown (6.4 ppg, 6rpg; a grad transfer to Tennessee), Nike McClure (5.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg; grad transfer to New Mexico), Kayla Washington (4.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg; transferred to UCSB)
Key additions: F Ula Motuga (four-star freshman), G Cherilyn Molina (three-star freshman)
What to expect: The Cougars’ 2017-18 season was a nightmare. Coach June Daugherty was let go, and positive note with three big major contributors left the program. However, seven players stayed and committed to the new coach Kamie Ethridge, and the Cougars brought in a four-freshman recruiting class. It’s still unclear how WSU will respond with a new coach and revamped roster.
Coach: Jody Wynn (144-142 overall in nine seasons, 7-23 in one season at UW)
2017-18 record: 7-23, 1-17 Pac-12 (12th)
Key returners: G Amber Melgoza (19 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Hannah Johnson (7.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), G Jenna Moser (8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg), F Mai-Loni Henson (9.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Key losses: G Natalie Romeo, C Deja Strother
Key additions: F Darcy Reese (four-star freshman), G T.T. Watkins (three-star freshman), F Haley Van Dyke (three-star freshman)
What to expect: Coming off the worst season in program history, UW is hoping to put up a few more wins. Unfortunately, they lost three players before the season started — sophomore Fapou Semebene withdrew from school and Romeo and Strother, two holdovers from coach Mike Neighbors’ squad. medically retired. On a positive note, Melgoza returns. The guard averaged 19 points per game last season, the second-best mark in the league.