Arizona women’s basketball heads to Seattle for the Pac-12 tournament. It needs to win four in a row to have any hope of reaching the NCAA tournament.
The 11th-seeded Wildcats (12-17, 4-14 Pac-12) open the tournament Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against six-seed Utah (17-12, 8-10) in the first round. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.
“I’m just happy it’s March because in March, anything can happen,” head coach Niya Butts said. “And right now, we need something different to happen than what’s been happening.”
Arizona has lost its last four games and 12 of its last 13, but half of its Pac-12 wins have come against the Utes. Arizona swept the season series with the Utes, winning 62-58 on Jan. 18 in Utah and 61-52 on Feb. 17 in Tucson, which snapped an eight game losing streak.
Butts said it is hard to beat a team three times in one season.
“The one thing our kids know is that we can beat them and we’ve had some success against them, but we have to be prepared to do things better than the last two times we played them,” Butts said.
Butts said the Wildcats have had problems with turnovers, but have improved the last three or four games.
Arizona has gone 10-11 in the Pac-10/12 tournament. Utah is 0-1.
Utah junior forward Taryn Wicijowski has just returned after missing three games with a torn meniscus.
“Having Taryn back is a huge thing,” Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said.
Eleven seeds are 2-1 and six seeds are 5-11, 0-1 since the tournament expanded to 12. Arizona has won at least one game in the tournament in eight out of the 11 years it has existed.
Utah had one player named to the 15 member All-Pac-12 team, junior forward Michelle Plouffe. Arizona had one All-Pac-12 performer too, senior Davellyn Whyte, but she has been all-conference in three of her four seasons.
Wicijowski and senior guard Iwalani Rodrigues were honorable mention All-Pac-12. Plouffe and Whyte were honorable mention All-Defensive team.
The Utes have won seven of their last 10 games.
Levrets said the Utes took it one game and one possession at a time and tried to see how far they could climb in the standings.
“We put the standings on the board, showed the kids where we were, who we had left on the schedule and said, ‘This is tournament time for us, one game at a time,’” Levrets said.
If Arizona can upset Utah, it will face three-seed UCLA, which has a bye during the first round. The Bruins swept the season series, winning 73-57 in Los Angeles on Jan. 25 and 68-57 in Tucson on Sunday.
However, both Washington schools and the two top teams in the conference, one-seed Stanford (28-2, 17-1) and two-seed California (27-2, 17-1), are on the other side of the bracket. The home team, Washington (19-10, 11-7), is seeded fifth and Washington State (10-19, 6-12) is the eighth seed.
Stanford has won the tournament six times in a row and nine times overall.
If Arizona upsets UCLA, then it will be in the semifinals Saturday.