Expectations are higher than they have been in years for Arizona Women's basketball, find out what they're saying
Getting better by one percent every day amounts to a lot by the end of the season, and that is the exact expectation and goal for the Arizona women’s basketball team.
The Arizona women’s basketball team is getting closer and closer to their season. The Pac-12 conference is highly stacked, with five Pac-12 women's basketball teams ranked in the top 25 and two in the top three alone. Oregon is the No. 1 team in the country, according to multiple polls, and has the reigning player of the year, Sabrina Ionescu. But the hope for Arizona is to be ranked and be in the top half of the conference.
“Can we? I think we can, if we embrace what we are doing and we are hungry," said Arizona Head Coach Adia Barnes said in reference to being ranked. "I think we are there, I just don’t know how we are going to respond yet.”
Putting the Wildcats in a position where they are responding well comes from a process of getting better one day at a time. Arizona finished off the season last year winning the WNIT, so the Wildcats have a lot of confidence and momentum going into the season to be better. The best way for them to do that is by using their momentum and setting expectations higher. To do this, they have to hold each other accountable as a team and not just expect the coach to always be watching them.
“I think good teams are when the coaches hold players accountable, but I think great teams are when players can put each other in place," Barnes said. "The championship teams I’ve been a part of have been like that."
Barnes knows that a big part of consistently getting better comes through having excellent leaders. That is why Barnes describes her team as either lions, lion cubs or zebras. The lions are the already-established leaders, the lion cubs are the women she’s focusing on developing into leaders and the zebras just kind of go with the flow.
“It starts with me doing the things I need to do, making sure I’m on top of things and making sure I’m not lacking in anything," Aari McDonald said. "I know everyone does look up to me, I’m just trying to make sure I’m always on the right track and stepping out of my comfort zone by talking and encouraging more and more.”
McDonald, the Wildcats' leading scorer, has the same expectation as her head coach.
“We are looking to do better things like competing harder, rebounding well … We struggled with that … scoring more and getting up and down that court,” McDonald said.
In addition to performing better, McDonald points out that fans should expect some really good teamwork. The Wildcats have a ton of unselfish players on their team, and they are excited to show off their energy and enthusiasm through touches, high fives and chest bumps.
Having a team expectation to simply get better doesn't mean they'll get better overnight. It means that everyone is dedicated to putting their best foot forward for the betterment of their team. The Wildcats want to help each other work toward getting ranked and eventually making the NCAA tournament. That and even going further in the tournament are the goals for this year.