Remember when the Big Ten was on the rise? The conference is still coming on strong. It’s just now the Pac-12 is starting to pick up some steam in the 2018-19 college basketball season.
To say nothing of the play of the teams in the Pac-12 is a disservice. On Monday, this week’s Top 25 was on display and there are five Pac-12 teams present in those rankings.
- #5 Oregon
- #6 Stanford
- #9 Oregon State
- #16 Arizona State
- #21 Utah
It is one of those moments where you sit back and glorify the parity. Unfortunately, unless you stay up late, you don’t get a chance to watch much of the conference. To the dismay of fans, it can be taxing to stay up late to catch a Pac-12 game if a team is not playing in the primetime slot. Surprisingly, when you catch a game, it is usually a spectacle.
For instance, watching the play of Oregon under the leadership of Kelly Graves can be beneficial to young girls. The Ducks were tabbed as the favorite to win the conference at the beginning of the season. Oregon is led by All-American guard Sabrina Ionescu. The junior is averaging 20 points, 8.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game up to this point. She has, definitively, set records for triple doubles this season and there’s no slowing down. Including the play of post players Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally, the Ducks have a talented cast to work with.
Then you have the Stanford Cardinal. A team that has been consistent in the Pac-12 since its inception. Tara VanDerveer has this team in prime position to bring home another conference championship in the 2018-19 college basketball season. Reaching her 900th career win at the school against Washington State, it’s no surprise that VanDerveer has the Cardinal playing top notch basketball.
Alanna Smith is the focal point of Stanford. The senior is averaging 21 points, 8.4 rebounds and is shooting 57.1 percent from the field this season. The key to this run by Stanford is the increasingly strong play of DiJonai Carrington. Her role was beginning to expand with the injuries to Nadia Fingall and Maya Dodson. Now she is playing very well and is playing with high confidence.
“I’ve had these tools in my bag,” stated the junior guard to Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle, “but I think I finally got the confidence to play free and play my game, and not focus on making mistakes and outside noise.”
Unfortunately for both the Ducks and Cardinal, it is not just a two-horse race.
Oregon State, a NCAA Tournament team from last season, is continuing to climb the proverbial ladder to the Pac-12 championship. Even though Marie Gulich is in her professional career, the Beavers was able to revamp and still be a top team in the conference. Destiny Slocum and Mikayla Pivec are leading the way for the Beavers. Pivec is the anchor inside for Oregon State and is performing admirably, similar to how Gulich was last season.
“This year, I’m a lot more confident in my offensive game and I had really good role models that last few years in how to be aggressive offensively,” Pivec stated to The Gazette Times in December. “I’m trying to take what’s there. I know my teammates set me up for success a lot. Destiny creates so well that she takes so much attention away and we’re just trying to capitalize on whatever mismatches are present.”
We have mentioned how Utah has become one of the surprise teams this year, thanks to the play of Megan Huff. Notably, the X-factor for the Utes this season has been the play of freshman Dru Gylten. The product from St. Thomas More is averaging 7.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds. Her impact can really be seen on the defensive end. Along with her defense, she leads the team with her 6.3 assists per game. Gylten is collecting an assist 31.3% of the time.
It is important to realize that she is not the starting point guard for the team.
“Just like at STM where we limited people with our amazing defense, that has carried over here at Utah,” Gylten stated to the Rapid City Journal. “It’s sharing the ball and getting people open; keeping other players occupied on offense and defense. It just comes down to playing basketball, moving for your teammates and getting them open, playing as a team.”
The one team, besides the Utes who is surprising numerous spectators in the women’s college basketball game is the Arizona State Sun Devils. Head coach Charli Turner Thorne is guiding this team and they are making it difficult for the competition in the Pac-12. As of January 25, ASU is 5th in the Pac-12 and they are at this point thanks to play of Kianna Ibis. The senior forward is averaging 14.5 points, 63. rebounds and 1.4 steals per game for the Sun Devils and we could be seeing her playing in the WNBA after this season.
“She’s more comfortable putting threes up,”stated Ben Dull to the Arizona Republic. Dull has Ibis as a low third round pick in his WNBA mock draft. “She saved them against Utah with two ridiculous threes running off screens. If you see that, you think maybe she can do a lot more facing the basket from out there than she’s currently doing.”
The Pac-12 is ready to make some noise as we get closer to the conference tournaments. Do not be surprised if you see these five teams in the NCAA Tournament come March.
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