November 02, 2015

espnW picks Cardinal 13th

espnW has announced its preseason top 25, as voted by Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith, Mechelle Voepel, and Rebecca Lobo. Their top 25 includes three Pac-12 teams:

7. Oregon State

Notable returners: Jamie Weisner (13.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG); Ruth Hamblin (12.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG); Sydney Wiese (12.7 PPG, 5.6 APG)

After the best season in Oregon State history, the Beavers have a chance to be even better with four of five starters back. Weisner and Wiese are both 40 percent shooters from beyond the 3-point line, which keeps defenders off Hamblin. The 6-6 senior center is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year who has improved into a quietly dominant inside force for Scott Rueck. The sixth-year coach has given new life to the program with 51 wins in the past two seasons. The downside is that only two of those wins have come in the NCAA tournament. The Beavers were bounced in the second round in both 2014 and 2015. Another Pac-12 title and a deep run in March would solidify the program-changing careers of Weisner and Hamblin.

13. Stanford

Notable returners: Lili Thompson (13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG); Karlie Samuelson (6.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG); Kaylee Johnson (5.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG)

For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the Cardinal were not the preseason pick to win the Pac-12. But other streaks -- 28 straight NCAA tournament appearances and 14 consecutive 20-win seasons -- appear safe. Whether Stanford reaches a ninth Sweet 16 in a row might depend on whether Tara VanDerveer finds a suitable replacement for primary ball handler Amber Orrange, made more necessary with last season's switch to a more fast break-oriented offense. It also might depend on Kaylee Johnson and Erica McCall breaking out (and they appear ready to). McCall is coming off a successful summer as a top performer on a gold-medal winning Team USA at the World University Games. Thompson remains the top offensive threat and Samuelson should assume the role of top 3-point threat.

15. Arizona State

Notable returners: Katie Hempen (12.0 PPG, 2.4 APG); Sophie Brunner (11.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG); Elisha Davis (7.5 PPG, 4.5 APG)

This time last year no one could have thought the Sun Devils would end up one-point short of a 30-win season and an appearance in a regional final. But that was exactly the cost of ASU's near miss against Florida State in the Sweet 16. Arizona State exceeded everyone's expectations by a mile. Now almost all of those same Sun Devils are back, led by the confident and fearless Hempen, a guard, and Brunner in the post. Of course, balanced playing time remains the hallmark of Charli Turner Thorne's ASU teams. Nine players averaged double-figure minutes a season ago and that isn't likely to change.

Click here for more: UConn again top dog as Huskies open as preseason favorite

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