With the depth and talent of Pac-12 women’s basketball coming into this season, it made sense to think there would be multiple matchups of teams ranked in the top 15.
The surprise is that Utah will be involved in two of them, and they’ll take place in the Utes' next two games.
Thanks to Sunday’s 75-68 upset of then-No. 6 Stanford at the Huntsman Center, the Utes (18-1) jumped seven spots to No. 14 in the AP Top 25, announced Monday. That’s the highest ranking for the Utes since they were No. 12 in March 2008. BYU (17-3) moved into the rankings at No. 25, marking the Cougars' first appearance in the poll since 2012.
Baylor moved to No. 1, after Notre Dame lost to North Carolina and fell to No. 5.
Before beating Stanford, Utah took an 87-74 win over a California team that had spent much of the season in the Top 25. The Utes' advancement in the rankings comes as they prepare for big games Friday at No. 4 Oregon and Sunday at No. 9 Oregon State. Oregon leads the Pac-12 with an 8-0 conference record; Utah, Stanford and OSU are tied for second at 7-1. Utah’s only loss of the season came against now-No. 21 Arizona State on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Utah senior forward Megan Huff was named the Pac-12 player of the week. Her second honor of the season came after she averaged 20.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the team’s two wins.
Regardless of what happens on the Oregon swing, Utah is well positioned for postseason play after being picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 in coach Lynne Roberts' fourth season. The Utes have a 2½-game lead over fifth place Arizona State, with the top four teams receiving byes in the Pac-12 tournament. The Utes have a scheduling advantage, with only one game against each of the conference’s top three teams: Oregon, No. 8 Stanford and OSU. So Utah could absorb losses to the Ducks and Beavers and remain in good shape.
Of course, the Utes are not thinking that way as they showed by dominating the closing stretch vs. Stanford. In the ESPN Bracketology, Utah is given a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and BYU is a No. 10 seed. The Utes have not appeared in the tournament in the program’s Pac-12 era.
The Cougars, 9-0 in the West Coast Conference, moved inside the Top 25 this week. Their upset of now-No. 15 Gonzaga the previous week was not quite enough to earn them the ranking. BYU’s nonconference losses were against California, Southern Utah and Utah. The Cougars will visit Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine on Thursday and Saturday.