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Stanford picked to win Pac-12 regular-season crown

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

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.

Big Sky

The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team has been picked to finish third by the media and fifth by the league’s coaches in the Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls, the conference office announced Wednesday.

Eastern received 117 points from the media and 76 points from the Big Sky coaches.

North Dakota, last year’s regular season and tournament champion, is picked to repeat by both the media and the league’s coaches, garnering eight first-place votes from media members and seven from the coaches.

Montana was a unanimous runner-up selection in both polls, receiving three first-place votes from the media and two from the coaches.

Idaho, which returns to the Big Sky after departing the conference following the 1995-96 athletic season, received two first-place votes from the media, but trailed the Eagles in total points, 117-106. The Vandals were the coaches’ pick for third place, garnering a pair of first-place votes.

The coaches’ final first-place vote went to Northern Colorado, which received 77 points to EWU’s 76 points in the coaches poll. The Bears were picked to finish fifth by the media.

Southern Utah, Montana State, Sacramento State, Idaho State and Northern Arizona round out to the top 10 in the media poll while the coaches poll included the same five teams, but in different order. The coaches tabbed Montana State to finish sixth followed by Southern Utah, Idaho State, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona.

Portland State and Weber state were picked 11th and 12th in both polls, respectively.

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