The Utah women’s basketball team is picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 this year according to a poll of the league’s coaches released Wednesday at the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day in San Francisco.
Defending champion Oregon was picked to finish first, garnering 11 of 12 first-place votes and 121 points overall. Stanford received the other first-place vote and is picked for second, followed by Oregon State, California, Arizona State, UCLA and USC. Utah received 50 points and is followed by Colorado, Arizona, Washington State, and Washington.
Last year, the Utes were picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll and finished eighth at 8-10. Overall, the Utes were 18-14 and won a game in the WNIT before losing to Kansas State to end the season.
Coach Lynne Roberts, who is beginning her fourth season after leading the Utes to postseason tournaments for three straight years, said she told her team recently that it takes three full seasons for the culture to "stick" and that's where she feels her team is this year.
"We've got great returners -- we've returned three starters from last year and have some really talented newcomers," she said. "So we're still pushing the boulder up a hill, and this league is unbelievable in terms of just the talent, the coaching year after year. So we're still climbing, but I'm really excited about where we're at and really looking forward to the year."
The Utes return their two leading scorers, Megan Huff (14.7 ppg) and Daneesha Provo (12.3 ppg), who joined Roberts representing the Utes at the media day meetings. Also returning this year is Erika Bean, who started all 32 games and was fifth in the Pac-12 in assists at 5.1 per game and junior guard Kiana Moore. Sophomore forward Maurane Corbin will miss the season after tearing her ACL recently.
Gone is four-year starter Emily Potter (12.1), forward Tilar Clark, who started the majority of games last year, and part-time starter Tanaeya BoClair.
Joining the Utes this year is graduate transfer Sarah Porter, who averaged 9.0 points and 3.4 rebounds for UC-Santa Barbara last year.
Four freshmen include Lola Pendande, a 6-4 forward from Spain, Dre’Una Edwards 6-2 wing player from Liberty High School in Las Vegas, Andrea Torres, 6-2 forward from Quebec, and Niyah Becker a 6-2 wing from Manitoba, Canada. Jordan Cruz, a 5-10 wing from Sacramento and Dru Gylten, a 5-11 guard from South Dakota, are redshirt freshmen.
"I think we have a really good group of new guys coming in, but they are new," said Roberts. "And looking at this season, I do think we have a nice balance of solid seniors, upperclassmen, but some young ones that are going to need to play."
Utes open the season with an exhibition game Oct. 31 against Westminster College at 11 a.m. The season opener is Nov. 7 at Nevada with the home opener set for Nov. 13 against Alabama.
The Utes will also have home games against Long Beach State, Idaho State, Seattle, Utah Valley, BYU and Weber State with another road game at Eastern Washington and a tournament game against Florida in Las Vegas. The Pac-12 season begins Dec. 30 at Colorado. The Pac-12 Tournament will be played in Las Vegas for the first time — after being held at Seattle's KeyArena since 2013 —March 7-10 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.