After three years of steady — and arguably painstakingly slow — growth under its fourth-year coach Jody Wynn, the Washington women’s basketball team enters the 2020-21 season with four new starters and modest expectations.
The roster churn, the absence of notable stars and an inexperienced supporting cast no doubt played a major factor in the Huskies being picked 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.
Stanford, which tops the list as the preseason favorite, garnered 19 out of a possible 21 first-place votes and 248 points.
Arizona, which nabbed a first-place vote, is second with 225 points followed by three-time regular-season defending champion Oregon (201) and UCLA (200).
Oregon State, which received the other first-place vote, is fifth with 174 points and Arizona State (135) is sixth.
The bottom half of the poll includes USC (135) at seventh followed by Utah (94), California (76), Colorado (75), Washington (53) and Washington State (27).
The Pac-12 preseason coaches poll was nearly identical to the media’s picks.
Stanford tops the list with 120 points and 10 out of a possible 11 first-place votes. (Conference coaches can’t vote for their teams.)
Arizona, which picked up two first-place votes, tied Oregon for second place with 103 points.
The remaining list includes fourth-place UCLA (88), followed by OSU (83), USC (69), ASU (61), Utah (52), Colorado (43), California (31), UW (24) and WSU (15).
Last year, Washington was picked ninth in the preseason coaches poll after being tabbed last the previous two years.
The Huskies finished the 2019-20 season 13-17 and tied for ninth place in the Pac-12 at 5-13.
It was the highest finish for UW under Wynn following an 11th-place finish in 2018-19 and 12th-place finish in 2017-18.
Washington, which has improved its victory total each year under Wynn, will be hard pressed to continue the trend with a revamped roster that includes four new starters.
Junior center Darcy Rees is the lone returning starter. She averaged 6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18.4 minutes while starting 22 of 25 games last season before suffering a foot injury in February.
The Huskies also bring back junior forward Haley Van Dyke, who led the team in rebounds (5.1 per game) and steals (2.1) last season. She was second with an 8.2 scoring average while shooting 43.2% from the field.
Still, it will be difficult for Washington to overcome the loss of senior guard Missy Peterson, a two-year starter who suffered a season-ending knee injury last month.
The Huskies also lost starters Amber Melgoza and Mai-Loni Henson to graduation while Rita Pleskevich transferred to Florida Atlantic University.
Freshman point guard Tameiya Sadler, a four-star recruit from Vallejo, Calif., leads a quartet of first-year players that is expected to receive plenty of minutes and opportunities this season.
PAC-12 SCHEDULE PAIRINGS RELEASED
The Pac-12 announced the weekly matchups and sites for the 2020-21 expanded 22-game league schedule, which is an increase of four games.
The dates, times and television information are still being finalized.
Washington starts the Pac-12 schedule at California and Stanford during Dec. 4-7.
The following week Dec. 10-14, the Huskies return home to meet cross-state rival Washington State.
Washington is home against Oregon and Oregon State during Dec 18-21 before traveling to Colorado and Utah during the Jan. 1-4 week.
Arizona and Arizona State visit UW on Jan. 8-11.
The Huskies will spend the next two weeks on the road starting at UCLA and USC during Jan. 14-18 before traveling to Oregon and Oregon State on Jan. 22-25.
Washington has a four-game homestand starting with California and Stanford on Jan. 29-Feb. 1, followed by UCLA and USC on Feb. 5-8.
The Huskies are on the road Feb. 12-15 to face Arizona and ASU before their final home games against Colorado and Utah on Feb. 19-22.
Washington concludes the regular season at WSU during the Feb. 26-March 1 week.
— The Huskies were shut out of Pac-12 media preseason all-conference selections. Arizona senior guard Aari McDonald, an Associated Press preseason All-American who played her freshman year at Washington, highlights the 15-player team.