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Expectations low for Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars in Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason poll

Washington State’s Chanelle Molina, right, speaks next to Borislava Hristova during the Pac-12 women’s basketball media day in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu / AP)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

SAN FRANCISCO – Not surprisingly, the Oregon women’s basketball team, which returns four starters from last season’s team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for the second consecutive year, was picked by conferences coaches to win the Pac-12 title.

It’s the first time the Ducks, who received the most possible votes (coaches could not vote for their teams), have been in the top spot in the preseason poll that began in 1986-87.

Meanwhile, Washington was picked last for the second consecutive year and Washington State was tabbed to finish 11th.

Last season, the Huskies proved the coaches’ prediction to be accurate while finishing 7-23 and last in the conference race at 1-17. UW returns four starters, including all-Pac-12 guard Amber Melgoza, who was second in the conference in scoring at 19.0 points per game.

Led by preseason All-America guard Sabrina Ionescu and all-Pac-12 forward Ruthy Hebard, Oregon received 11 first-place votes and is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as regular-season and tournament champions.

Stanford, which advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, was voted second in the preseason poll and picked up the other first-place vote.

Oregon State, which hasn’t finished lower than third in the Pac-12 since 2014, was picked third. Like their cross-state rival, the Beavers return four starters from a team that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight.

California was picked fourth, followed by Arizona State and UCLA. Each team appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season.

The bottom half of the preseason poll begins with USC in the seventh spot, followed by Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

Kamie Ethridge takes over as coach at Washington State, which finished 10-20 and 3-14 last season.