Three matters are of utmost importance to Adia Barnes and Arizona:
— The Wildcats’ No. 13 spot in the recent NCAA Top 16 Committee rankings.
— Finishing in the top four of the Pac-12.
— Building on their attendance figures to strengthen their case to host the first and second round of the NCAA tournament.
The objectives with six games remaining in the regular season begins tonight at McKale Center at 7 against Washington. Pac-12 Network and KTUC (1400-AM) will broadcast the game live.
The Wildcats have plenty to play for other than improving upon their No. 12 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll and earning a 20-win season.
Arizona (19-4, 8-4 Pac-12) is vying to be one of the top four seeds in the Pac-12 Tournament, thereby having the chance avoid playing on the first day of the tournament in Las Vegas next month.
Presently, the Wildcats are No. 4, one game ahead of Oregon State (19-5, 7-5). Oregon (22-2, 11-1), UCLA (21-2, 11-2) and Stanford (21-3, 10-2) are ahead of Barnes’ team in the standings.
If Arizona can run the table or at least finish 5-1 down the stretch — four of its last six games are at home — the Wildcats will be in a favorable position to get that first-round bye and strengthen their NCAA ranking and attendance figures.
In terms of hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, Arizona is in good standing with its attendance in addition to the No. 13 ranking. From my research of data from each conference, Arizona is also No. 13 in attendance nationally.
The Wildcats are averaging 5,710 fans a game, which ranks third in the Pac-12 behind Oregon (10,619 average) and Oregon State (5,941). With anticipated crowds in excess of 7,000 fans this weekend against Washington and Washington State, the Wildcats have a chance to move past Oregon State, which is 12th in the nation in attendance.
Purdue, which is not one of the NCAA Top 16 Committee ranked teams, is the next highest at 6,313 fans a game.
NCAA Women's Basketball Overall Attendance LeadersTop attendance figures in women's basketball as of games on Feb. 24. AllSportsTucson.com chart.
— The Wildcats won their first road game in program history vs. a top 10 team after beating No. 9 Oregon State on Sunday. They lost their first 61 games against such teams.
— Arizona has beaten two top 10 teams in one season for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
— The Wildcats’ 19 regular-season wins are the most since the 2010-11 season when they won 22.
— Arizona just finished a 10-game stretch where they played seven ranked teams, including six top-10 teams. They went 6-4 in those 10 games and 3-4 vs. the ranked teams. Arizona is one of three teams in the nation to have their only losses be to top 10 teams (Baylor and UConn are the others).
— Aari McDonald was named an Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Top 10 Finalist on Tuesday. She was also named to the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year Midseason Team on Tuesday. McDonald has scored in double-figures in 60 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. McDonald is eighth on the Arizona career scoring list. She is 11th in the country in scoring and leads the Pac-12 (20.5 points a game). McDonald also leads the Pac-12 in steals per game (2.7).[table “57” not found /]
— Arizona is ninth the country in scoring defense (53.8 points allowed a game) and first the Pac-12. The Wildcats have held all of their Pac-12 opponents under their scoring average.
— Arizona has been ranked in the AP Poll for 12 straight weeks for the first time since the 1999-00 season. No. 12 is Arizona’s highest ranking since the 1997-98 season, Barnes’ senior year.
— Dominique McBryde set season-highs in points (19), rebounds (eight) and blocks (four) at Oregon State last week. She is averaging 12.3 points on 68 percent shooting over her last three games after averaging 4.4 points in her previous 12. Arizona is 14-1 when McBryde is in the starting lineup with the only loss coming at Oregon.
— Sam Thomas is the only player in school history to have 100 career made 3-pointers and blocks. She is one of two current Pac-12 players with 100 career 3’s and blocks (Stephanie Watts of USC is the other). Thomas is second in the Pac-12 in career blocks among active players with 118.
— Cate Reese was named Pac-12 Player of the Week twice in December and was the first player in the Pac-12 to be named Player of the Week twice this season. Reese has seven double-doubles this season, matching her total from last season.
Arizona Career Double-Double Leaders
— Arizona is looking to sweep Washington in a season series for the first time since 2010-11. The Wildcats have won three straight meetings against the Huskies — with Barnes as head coach after leaving Washington as an assistant. Arizona had lost eight straight in the series before its recent success. McDonald was part of two of those wins for Washington before she transferred following the 2016-17 season.
— Washington’s defense continues to lead the Pac-12 and ranks 17th in the NCAA in steals per game (10.9) and also tops the conference and ranks 35th nationally in turnovers forced at 19.70 per game.
— Washington is 9-4 in its last 13 games away from home dating back to last season including a 6-3 record in such games this year (3-3 road, 3-0 neutral site). Just one of those losses this year came in regulation.
— Senior Amber Melgoza became the 14th Husky to score 1,500 career points with her 35-point performance against Cal on Feb. 2. She currently has 1,556 points and is 13th on Washington’s career scoring list, just 40 points shy of the 12th spot and 119 points away from moving into the Top 10. Melgoza ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring (15.4 points per game) and sixth in scoring in Pac-12 games (17.4 points per game). Melgoza’s 35 points vs California marked the sixth time she has scored 30-plus points, the second time this year.
— Sophomore Haley Van Dyke ranks second in the Pac-12 and 32nd in the NCAA with 54 steals (2.5 steals per game). She also leads the Huskies with 5.6 rebounds per game and is second in scoring at 9.0 points per game.
— Sophomore Darcy Rees ranks second in the Pac-12 in blocks with 23 and in blocks per game at 1.9.
— Washington has played four overtime games this season, the most in a single season in program history. The Huskies are one of nine NCAA DI teams (and the lone Pac-12 team) to play four OT games this year and one of two of those teams still looking for an overtime win (Bowling Green).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.