(Photo: ASU Athletics)
The media has released its 2014-15 Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason poll, placing Arizona State at sixth in the conference. ASU received 111 points in the poll, well behind the 194 points amassed by conference-favorite California.
It is the first time in Cal’s history that it has been ranked first in the media preseason poll. After finishing second in the Pac-12 last season, the Golden Bears are looking to dethrone Stanford as the top team in the conference.
The reigning Pac-12 champion Cardinal come in at second in the poll, receiving 190 votes. Despite receiving seven of the 17 first place votes, it is the first time in 15 years that Stanford was not selected as the media’s preseason favorite to win the conference.
Oregon State ranks No. 3, coming off a 13-5 conference record that put them at third in the Pac-12. The Beavers return 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin, who led the Pac-12 in blocks with 141 on the season.
Coming in at No. 4 is UCLA, followed by fifth-ranked Washington. Despite a less than stellar 2013-14 campaign, the Bruins have notched the top recruiting class in the nation and look to be a legitimate competitor this season. The Huskies will lean on preseason All-Conference selection Jazmine Davis to lead them to the NCAA tournament.
Just behind ASU is defending Pac-12 Tournament champion USC at No. 7, followed by Washington State at No. 8, Oregon at No. 9, Utah at No. 10, Colorado at No. 11, and Arizona at No. 12.
The Sun Devils are coming off a season in which they finished fourth in the Pac-12 with an 11-7 conference record, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in two years as a No. 9 seed.
The two-spot drop from the end of last season to now can likely be attributed to the loss of All-Conference point guard Deja Mann.
However, Arizona State has reason to feel confident that it will improve upon its No. 6 preseason ranking. The return of leader Promise Amukamara will help to keep the Sun Devils stern on the defensive side of the ball, while sophomore forwards Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos will continue to score points on offense. Freshman Ayanna Edwards looks to assert herself in the lineup as well.
Edwards, a four-star prospect according to ESPN.com, will attempt to solidify the frontcourt for Arizona State this season. At 6-foot-2, 270-pounds, the freshman adds size and strength to a roster that lost 6-foot-5 center Joy Burke at the end of last season.
ASU saw its season end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the hands of the eventual runner-ups Notre Dame, but with new additions like Edwards and experienced starters like Amukamara, Moos, and Brunner, Arizona State not only has the capability to surpass its preseason No. 6 ranking, but also has a strong chance to exceed its No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona State’s season begins at home against Middle Tennessee on Friday, November 14 at Wells Fargo Arena.