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California Teams Dominate Women’s College Basketball Rankings

California Teams Dominate Women’s College Basketball Rankings

JuJu Watkins (12) of the USC Trojans drives against Taylor Thierry (2) of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half of their game during the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Series at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2023. The Trojans defeated the Buckeyes 83–74. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

11/30/2023

Updated: 12/21/2023

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If there is a golden age for women’s college basketball in California, this might be it.
Three of the top 10 teams in the latest Associated Press Top 25 national rankings hail from the Golden State. The University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) leads the way at No. 2, behind only perennial national power and 2022 NCAA champion South Carolina.
The University of Southern California (USC) is No. 6, its highest standing since being No. 4 in 1994, while Stanford, the 2021 national champion, slipped to ninth after being ranked third last week.
“I think it’s a tribute to the commitment of all our institutions,” Pacific 12 Conference associate commissioner for women’s basketball Rhonda Bennett told The Epoch Times. “And it’s not just the last few years. This is an almost 20-year commitment to improving women’s basketball and helping our teams get into a position where they are competing for championships and post-season bids.”
The Bruins, Cardinal, and Trojans have stolen much of the early season thunder, going a combined 19–0 in the season’s opening month, but they aren’t the only teams in the Pac-12 Conference teams drawing notice. Colorado (7–1) slipped to eighth, while Utah (6–1) is No. 12.
Meanwhile, California isn’t ranked, but the Golden Bears are off to a 7–1 start after a victory over visiting St. Mary’s. The Golden Bears’ only loss has been to the Southeastern Conference’s Texas A&M.
“This definitely didn’t happen by accident,” said Mrs. Bennett, a former chair of the NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball committee. “This has been the work of many years of commitment and investment in hiring amazing coaches and then being able to retain those coaches. And then the same thing with student-athletes, bringing in the cream of the crop, being able to retain them, and doing it year after year.”
This season’s Pac-12 race figures to be a doozy, in what will be the swan song for the conference. UCLA and USC, along with Oregon and Washington, will be joining the Big Ten next season, while Stanford and California are headed for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State are bound for the Big 12.
UCLA holds a 7–0 record, with four of its victories by at least 38 points; the Bruins’ only close call was a 77–74 triumph over visiting Princeton on Nov. 17.
The signature victory for the Bruins to this point was a 78–67 win over Connecticut in the Cayman Islands Classic on Nov. 24. It marked the first time in program history that UCLA has defeated UConn, which has won a record 11 NCAA championships, all since 1995.
“We were really confident that if we executed the game plan, we were going to win,” Bruins Coach Cori Close told reporters after the game. “I really believe in what this team is building.”
Charisma Osborne (20) of the UCLA Bruins talks with head coach Cori Close of the UCLA Bruins during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., on March 25, 2023. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Charisma Osborne (20) of the UCLA Bruins talks with head coach Cori Close of the UCLA Bruins during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., on March 25, 2023. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez, the younger sister of former UCLA men’s basketball standout Jaime Jaquez Jr., leads the Bruins in scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game. UCLA boasts five players averaging double-figures in points, including sophomore center Lauren Betts and three guards, graduate student Charisma Osborne and sophomores Londynn Jones and Kiki Rice.
Across town at USC, sensational freshman JuJu Watkins, the top incoming recruit in the nation, has scored 30 points or more four times in six games, all Trojans victories. In the process, the 6-foot-2 product of Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth has broken the school record for freshmen previously shared by USC legends Lisa Leslie and Paula McGee.
“Obviously, JuJu is so phenomenal,” Trojans Coach Lindsay Gottlieb told reporters on Nov. 22 after a 71–70 victory over Penn State in the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Classic in Nassau, Bahamas. “To see her adapt to the college game, and adapt as quickly, is so impressive.”
Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb of the USC Trojans gestures in the first half of a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Series at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2023. The Trojans defeated the Buckeyes 83–74. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb of the USC Trojans gestures in the first half of a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Series at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2023. The Trojans defeated the Buckeyes 83–74. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Fans across Southern California, however, are no doubt looking ahead to Dec. 30, when the Trojans will visit Pauley Pavilion to face UCLA. The teams will meet again on Jan. 14, 2024, at USC’s Galen Center.
Stanford, meanwhile, is off to a 7–1 start and had jumped as high as No. 3 in the poll until last week’s 96-78 loss to No. 23 Gonzaga. With impressive victories over nationally ranked Indiana and Florida State, the perennially strong Cardinal squad has risen since being ranked 15th in the AP preseason poll.
The Cardinal passed its biggest test thus far with an 82–79 overtime victory over Duke on Nov. 19.
“This was kind of a heavyweight fight, and it was a grind-out game,” Cardinal Coach Tara VanDerveer told reporters. “These are the kinds of games that will get us ready for the Pac-12 gauntlet.”
Cameron Brink (22) of the Stanford Cardinal against the Connecticut Huskies in the semi-final game of the 2022 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis on April 1, 2022. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Cameron Brink (22) of the Stanford Cardinal against the Connecticut Huskies in the semi-final game of the 2022 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis on April 1, 2022. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Senior Cameron Brink, a solid candidate to be the national player of the year, is averaging 18.9 points per game, while fellow post player Kiki Iriafen is at 19.7.
The emergence of Ms. Iriafen, a junior from Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, makes Stanford considerably more dangerous. Ms. Brink and Ms. Iriafen are among just 11 players in the country averaging at least 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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