Less than eight months ago, the University of Utah women’s basketball team made a statement by beating Stanford in its regular-season finale, a victory that earned the Utes a share of the Pac-12 regular-season championship along with the Cardinal.

It was the first time the program had laid claim to a conference championship since joining the Pac-12.

What will Utah do for an encore?

That’s to be determined in what’s anticipated to be another competitive season of Pac-12 basketball, though the Utes now know what’s expected of them from fellow league coaches and the media in the upcoming 2023-24 season.

Utah was picked to finish first in the conference by both the coaches and media in preseason polls released ahead of Tuesday’s Pac-12 basketball media day.

That’s the highest the Utes have ever been projected to finish in the league, besting last year’s fifth-place prediction, which was the previous high.

Utah received seven first-place votes out of 12 in the coaches poll and 116 points overall, with UCLA (three first-place votes, 109 points) and Stanford (two, 100) picked second and third, respectively.

It was the same three atop the media poll, with Utah earning 12 first-place votes and 298 points, ahead of UCLA (10, 284) and Stanford (5, 283).

There are a lot of good reasons for such optimism.

Utah returns all five starters this season, led by reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili. Pili, a forward, is one of three Utes named to this year’s preseason All-Pac-12 team — she is joined on the first team by guard Gianna Kneepkens, while forward Jenna Johnson made honorable mention.

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Utah is coming off a 27-5 season where the Utes made their first trip to Sweet 16 since 2006. The Utes lost in the NCAAs to eventual national champion LSU.

The school also added a trio of transfers to their already stacked roster — the group of newcomers is headlined by former Wisconsin guard Matyson Wilke, who started 29 games as a redshirt freshman for the Badgers last season.


Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason coaches poll

  1. Utah (7 first-place votes), 116 points.
  2. UCLA (3), 109.
  3. Stanford (2), 100.
  4. Colorado, 90.
  5. Washington State, 84.
  6. USC, 70.
  7. Arizona, 51.
  8. Oregon, 49.
  9. Washington, 46.
  10. Oregon State, 43.
  11. California, 22.
  12. Arizona State, 12.

Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason media poll

  1. Utah (12 first-place votes), 298 points.
  2. UCLA (10), 284.
  3. Stanford (5), 283.
  4. Colorado, 220.
  5. Washington State, 202.
  6. USC, 199.
  7. Arizona, 160.
  8. Oregon, 137.
  9. Oregon State, 121.
  10. Washington, 107.
  11. California, 52.
  12. Arizona State, 40.

Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason all-conference team

  • Raegan Beers, Oregon State, forward.
  • Cameron Brink, Stanford, forward.
  • Hannah Jump, Stanford, guard.
  • Gianna Kneepkens, Utah, Guard.
  • Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State, guard.
  • Rayah Marshall, USC, Guard/forward.
  • Esmery Martinez, Arizona, forward.
  • Quay Miller, Colorado, center.
  • Bella Murekatete, Washington State, center.
  • Charisma Osborne, UCLA, guard.
  • Alissa Pili, Utah, Forward.
  • Kiki Rice, UCLA, guard.
  • Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado, guard.
  • Grace VanSlooten, Oregon, forward.
  • Talia von Oelhoffen, Oregon State, guard.

Honorable mention (received votes from three or more members of the media): Helena Pueyo (Arizona); Kemery Martín (California); Leilani McIntosh (California); Frida Formann (Colorado); Aaronette Vonleh (Colorado); Talana Lepolo (Stanford); Emily Bessoir (UCLA); Lauren Betts (UCLA); JuJu Watkins (USC); Jenna Johnson (Utah); Dalayah Daniels (Washington).