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In just three years, Arizona women's basketball has gone from basement dwellers to a top-15 team

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Elijah Bia | The Daily Wildcat The Arizona women's basketball Head Coach Adia Barnes coaches her team from the sidelines

At the start of the 2016-17 season, Adia Barnes took over Arizona’s women’s basketball after spending five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Washington. Barnes and Arizona have had a good history.

Barnes has been one of the most decorated players in Arizona’s history. She was picked 32nd in the Women’s National Basketball Association Draft and spent about seven seasons in the WNBA before going overseas to continue her professional basketball career in several different countries. Just like many former Arizona basketball players, Barnes spent some time doing basketball commentary, as she became the color commentator for radio coverage on the Seattle Storm in 2007. Barnes had spent her last three WNBA seasons with this team as a player. 

After starting her college coaching career with Washington, Barnes came to Arizona to revamp the program. In Barnes’ first season with the program, the Wildcats went 14-16 and finished with a 5-13 record in the conference. 

The attendance at the games were downright dead. There were just under 2,000 people going to each game. Meanwhile, the men’s team was doing great with two players drafted into the NBA that year and making the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. 

The following season for the women’s team went completely downhill from the previous year. They hit a new rock bottom and finished 6-24 on the season, winning just two PAC-12 games that year. After that season, Barnes had a new wave of talent come in and take over Arizona. 

Beginning that year, Aari McDonald, Dominique McBryde and Sam Thomas would all become household names from that point forward. Cate Reese was the first McDonald’s All-American player to commit to the Wildcats. She became the defining player that Arizona needed to give the program a great balance, have a lot of returning players become upperclassmen and give the team a second wave of talent for the near future. She was a big part to the Wildcat’s WNIT Championship in 2019. The transfer portal has sped up the rebuild of the program as they have a total of six transfers on this year’s roster. 

The Wildcats are seeking their first top-10 ranking in a while this year. They are setting all sorts of new records for the program, and they currently stand at 22-5 and are No. 13 in ESPN’S AP Top 25. They are on pace to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in history. Arizona is projected to be the fourth seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and could potentially face ASU in the second round.


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