Pac-12 Notebook

On weekly conference pairings, recruiting classes and preseason honors

Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited, and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives, and projections about the game we love.

Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues, and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.


Arizona’s Aari McDonald (top center) and UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere (bottom right) join the AP’s Doug Feinberg, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (top right), Louisville’s Dana Evans (bottom left) and Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard (bottom center) for the AP Preseason All-America chat on Nov. 13, 2020.

The season starts in nine days, but things are still a bit unsettled in the Pac-12. Some schools are still looking for non-conference games. At least the programs know which weekends they will play their conference games and who to expect on campus in the coming years.

Conference announces weekly pairings

On Friday, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said that two of the team’s three non-conference games had been canceled by the opponents. She had only one date—with Northern Arizona—on the schedule. As of Monday morning, she and her colleagues know the order of conference play, though.

The opening weekend of the Pac-12 competition will be Dec. 4-7. The slate features the Mountain schools (Utah and Colorado) at the Oregon schools, the Los Angeles schools at the Arizona schools, and the Washington schools vs. the Bay Area schools (California and Stanford).

The 10th through the 14th of the month will be filled with rivalry games: Arizona State at Arizona, Oregon at Oregon State, Stanford at Cal, UCLA at USC, Utah at Colorado, and Washington State at Washington.

Dec. 18-21 has the Arizona schools traveling to the Mountain schools. The Bay Area schools will travel down the coast to face the LA schools. The Ducks and Beavers will stay in the Pacific Northwest as they go to Washington and Washington State.

The New Year will ring in with Cal and Stanford hitting the road to battle Arizona and Arizona State sometime between Jan. 1 and Jan. 4. UCLA and USC will go up to the Oregon schools. Washington and Washington will be on the road against Utah and Colorado.

Between Jan. 8-11, the Arizona schools will head to face the Washington schools, the Mountain schools go to LA, and the Oregon schools travel down to the Bay Area.

Jan. 22-25 has the Mountain schools playing the Arizona schools on the road. UCLA and USC make the return trip to play Stanford and Cal on the road. Washington and Washington State take on Oregon and Oregon State.

Jan. 29-Feb. 1 will see Arizona and Arizona State head to Los Angeles for matchups against the Bruins and the Women of Troy. The Bay Area schools will go to Washington and Washington State. The Ducks and Beavers will find themselves doing the road trip to Utah and Colorado.

Between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, the Wildcats and Sun Devils will go to play the Oregon schools, the Mountain schools will head to the Bay Area for two games, and UCLA and USC will be on the road in Seattle and Pullman.

Feb. 12-15 has Cal and Stanford facing Oregon and Oregon State, UCLA and USC at Utah and Colorado, and Washington and Washington State on the road against Arizona and ASU.

The Arizona schools will go to the Bay Area on the weekend of Feb. 19-22. The Mountain schools will head up north to play UW and WSU, while Oregon and Oregon State go south to take on USC and UCLA.

The conference season will wind up with the second weekend of rivalry games: UA at ASU, Cal at Stanford, Colorado at Utah, OSU at UO, USC at UCLA, and UW visiting WSU.

The future’s so bright…

The Conference of Champions has four of the top 10 teams in the AP preseason poll, but the expectations won’t end this season. The early signing period kicked off on Nov. 11, and the league again cleaned up on the recruiting trail.

After seeing the No. 1 class head to Oregon in 2020 and the No. 2 class to Stanford in 2019, the Pac-12 had three of ESPN’s top 10 classes and six of the top 25.

Stanford led the way at No. 6 by bringing in the No. 11, No. 19, and No. 78 prospects. It’s a case of “another year, another top 10 class” for Tara VanDerveer.

Just behind the Cardinal was USC at No. 7. Mark Trakh signed the No. 21 and No. 27 recruits. He also garnered the verbal commitment of top-10, 2022 point guard, Aaliyah Gayles, setting the Women of Troy up for another great class next year.

Oregon State came in at No. 8. Scott Rueck got letters from the No. 25 and No. 32 players in the class according to ESPN.

Next in line was Arizona at No. 15. Barnes signed a highly-touted guard out of Estonia (rated 4.5 stars by ESPN). Her domestic signings include the No. 71 and No. 100 players in ESPN’s rankings.

Washington was just behind the Wildcats at No. 16. Jody Wynn signed a big class, all of whom were highly-rated by ESPN’s evaluators. Her domestic players include the No. 63, No. 76, No. 85, and No. 94 prospects. She will also welcome a four-star recruit from Australia.

Arizona State rounded out the teams in the top 25, coming in at No. 23. Charli Turner Thorne will bring in the No. 33 domestic prospect and a four-star Australian.

Honors, honors everywhere

The AP preseason All-America team was the highlight of a week that featured multiple Pac-12 players garnering preseason honors. The conference joined the SEC with two players on the team. Out West, that means Arizona’s Aari McDonald and UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere.

McDonald was the first preseason AP All-American in Arizona history. She also won the WBCA/Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the best shooting guard in women’s college basketball last season. This year, she was once again on the preseason watch list.

McDonald wasn’t the only one from the Pac-12 on that list, either. She was joined by Taylor Mikesell (Oregon), Kiana Williams (Stanford), Charisma Osborne (UCLA), and Brynna Maxwell (Utah).

The other guard spot wasn’t ignored by preseason voters, either. Utah’s Dru Gylten will form a formidable backcourt with Maxwell this season. The voters for the Nancy Lieberman Award think she’ll be one of the best point guards in the country.

Onyenwere got more good news, as well, as she was once again named to the Cheryl Miller Award preseason watch list for the best small forward. She was joined by Stanford’s Haley Jones and Oregon’s Erin Boley.

Like shooting guards, power forwards in the Pac-12 gained a lot of attention. Arizona’s Cate Reese made the Katrina McClain Award watch list again after being a finalist last year. She was joined by Oregon State’s Taylor Jones, USC’s Alissa Pili, and the Stanford pair of Francesca Belibi and Cameron Brink.