Washington State placed 11th in the Pac-12 women’s basketball standings last season and is predicted to finish 10th this year in media and coaches’ preseason polls.
But sixth-year Cougars head coach June Daugherty has a higher goal – and a couple of reasons why that goal could be within reach.
“Of course, we want to win (the Pac-12),” Daugherty said. “I think a realistic goal for us is to be in the top five – if we can continue to improve and continue to use our experience from preseason, and obviously the key for every coach is to keep people healthy.”
Daugherty’s optimism comes from two fronts. First, her Cougars (4-7) have shown during nonconference play that they can defeat solid teams such as Gonzaga, Ohio State and BYU. Second, WSU caught fire at last year’s Pac-12 Conference tournament and advanced to the semifinals.
“All I know is for us (the tournament) served as a great motivator,” Daugherty said.
“We enjoyed being on that national stage and we enjoyed being one game away from the final of the Pac-12 at the Staples Center.”
WSU begins conference play at home at 7 p.m. today against Arizona (8-3) and at 1 p.m. Sunday against Arizona State (8-4).
Arizona’s second-leading scorer (11.4 ppg) is 6-foot junior guard Kama Griffitts, who played at Coeur d’Alene High and North Idaho College.
ASU is welcoming back successful coach Charli Turner Thorne, who took a one-year voluntary leave of absence to spend more time with her family.
“We know both (Arizona) teams are going to play excellent defense,” Daugherty said. “Both coaching staffs are all about the defensive end of the floor.”
The Pac-12 has four teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25: Stanford (11-1), fourth; California (10-1), seventh; UCLA (9-2), 16th; and Colorado (11-0), 20th.