If the women’s NCAA basketball championship got you amped about women’s basketball, I’m sorry that you have to wait a few months before more women’s college basketball. On the bright side, you have the WNBA to look forward to and their draft on April 15, on the downside the season is not happening immediately (start date still TBD). Their dope uniforms just dropped, so be sure to cop your favorite player(s) jersey. However, I’m not here to preach the goodness of the WNBA – though that is a nice tangential aspect – I’m here to preach the goodness of the PAC12 in women’s college basketball.
The PAC-12 should not be slept on when it comes to women’s basketball (and women’s sport in general, hello numerous pro footies out of the PAC, a strong LAX presence, and stellar track and field champs). For folks who didn’t tune into the women’s NCAA basketball championship, Stanford and Arizona was a nailbiter. Ultimately, Stanford took the W (54-53,) but Arizona captured the hearts of basketball fans across the country.
Let’s start with head coach Adia Barnes. The former University of Arizona and WNBA player became the head coach of the Wildcats in 2016. Like any coach, she did some building and took her team to the NCAA tournament. Not only that, she took the Arizona women’s team to the Final Four for the first time ever in school history. The team went on to beat UConn (yes, that UConn) and made it to the national championship. In the process of getting to the ‘ship, Barnes received some criticism for her use of her middle fingers. In her defense, she was basically saying “screw the haters” and who among us has not said that with some level of enthusiasm? An absolute icon. Not only did this woman coach her team to a national championship, she did it while taking care of her family and pumping at halftime.
Now let’s take a look at Aari MacDonald, whom everyone loves. She put in work for Arizona, consistently getting buckets and playing excellent defense. She will be sorely missed, but we’re hoping for the best in her WNBA career. She’s a first-round pick, so obviously, she’s kind of a big deal. Arizona will have some big shoes to fill with her leaving and folks are looking to Shaina Pellington to fill the Aari-shaped gap on the team.
Overall, going into next season Arizona players returning include Cate Reese, Bendu Yeaney, Lauren Ware, and Helena Pueyo. They won’t be without talent, but they’ll still be playing within the toughest conference in women’s college basketball.
Now before you name drop UConn or Baylor or South Carolina, remember that they run their conferences. South Carolina may have a little more competition, and Baylor faces the challenge of Iowa State, but one or two challenging teams does not equal a challenging conference despite what some analysts may say. Arizona has tough competition. The Big Ten might be the second most competitive women’s college basketball conference behind the PAC-12.
All this to say, start picking your PAC-12 team to root for in the 2021-2022 season now, folks.