One of the most significant games at McKale Center involving the Arizona women’s basketball team will be played tonight when No. 4 Stanford and legendary coach Tara VanDerveer visit.
A victory over Stanford, 24-4 overall and 13-3 in the Pac-12 with an RPI rating of No. 8, would be huge for Arizona’s aspirations to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament March 20-23.
In the eyes of the selection committee, it would allow the Wildcats (22-5, 11-5 Pac-12) to make a recovery from Sunday’s 50-38 loss at unranked Colorado. The Wildcats played that game and the one at Utah last weekend without injured All-American candidate Aari McDonald at point guard, which likely will weigh on the committee’s checklist.
Colorado has an RPI of No. 77. They are the only team in Quadrants 2-4 (No. 51 RPI or higher) to beat the Wildcats this season. Arizona is 17-1 against such teams and 5-4 against teams in top 50.
Adia Barnes has mentioned publicly she wants at least 10,000 fans tonight at 6 (Pac-12 Network/KTUC (1400-AM) at McKale Center. If that happens, the Wildcats would be less than 10,000 fans away from reaching the impressive feat of drawing 100,000 fans this season, which, of course, has not happened in Arizona history.
The Wildcats, who presently have drawn 80,555 fans, host California on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
Entering this week’s games, only nine schools nationally had at least 100,000 fans (see chart below that I put together researching each Division I conference’s attendance figures). Arizona is 13th nationally in attendance and third in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and Oregon State.
NCAA Women's Basketball Overall Attendance LeadersTop attendance figures in women's basketball as of games on Feb. 24. AllSportsTucson.com chart.
Out of the 16 teams the NCAA designated as the top 16 seeds at the beginning of February, Arizona has the ninth-best attendance (chart below). The second and final top 16 committee reveal will take place on Monday at halftime of the South Florida-UConn game on ESPN2 that tips at 5 p.m. Tucson time.
Arizona was ranked No. 13 by the committee last month. That put the Wildcats at a No. 4 seed.
NCAA Women's Basketball Top 16 Seed Attendance LeadersTop attendance figures in women's basketball with top 16-seeded teams by the NCAA tournament committee, listed by attendance. AllSportsTucson.com chart.
A win tonight for Arizona will also mean the Wildcats:
— Beat a top 5 team for the first time in school history. The Wildcats are 0-27 at McKale Center and 0-50 overall against such teams.
— Will have 23 regular-season victories for the first time in 20 years and remain on track to tie the school record of 24 regular-season wins set in 1999-2000 when Arizona finished 25-7.
— Will have 12 conference wins for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
— Have an opportunity to finish third in the Pac-12, thereby avoiding playing No. 3 Oregon until the championship game of the conference tournament next week. Arizona would have to sweep this weekend and Stanford would have to get swept by the Wildcats and ASU for Arizona to finish third over the Cardinal. UCLA (12-4) would have to lose once at home to either Colorado or Stanford to be in a tie with Arizona. If the Wildcats and UCLA finish 13-5, Arizona would win the tiebreaker because it swept the conference’s No. 7 team, USC, and UCLA split that series this season.
— Arizona is also seeking to end an eight-game losing streak against the Cardinal. That run was almost broken last year at Palo Alto, Calif., when a potential game-winning shot by McDonald at the buzzer did not go in the basket.
— Arizona is 11th the country in scoring defense (54.3 points allowed per game) and first the Pac-12. The Wildcats have held all of their Pac-12 opponents except for Utah under their scoring average.
— Arizona has been ranked in the AP Poll for 14 straight weeks for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
— McDonald, set to return this weekend, has scored in double-figures in 62 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. She is eighth on the Arizona career scoring list. She is eighth in the country in scoring and leads the Pac-12 (20.5 points a game). She also leads the Pac-12 in steals per game (2.6). She was named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist on Tuesday.[table “57” not found /]
— Sam Thomas scored a career-high 31 points and was 13-of-13 from the line at Utah last Friday. Thomas became the only player in Arizona history to have six blocks and four steals in one game against Washington two weeks ago. The junior is second in the Pac-12 in blocks per game (1.6) and third in steals per game (1.8). Thomas is the only player in school history to have 100 career made 3-pointers and blocks. She is fifth in career blocked shots (131) at Arizona and sixth in made threes (126). She passed former Catalina Foothills standout Julie Brase — Lute Olson’s granddaughter — in made 3-pointers last week. Brase made 125 in her career. Thomas is second in the Pac-12 in career blocks and fifth in steals among active players. She is also one of two Power 5 players with 40 blocks and steals this season (Natasha Mack of Oklahoma State is the only other player).
Arizona Career Blocked Shot Leaders
Arizona Career 3-point Field Goals Made Leaders
— Cate Reese was named to the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award Watch List. She has seven double-doubles this season (seventh in the Pac-12), matching her total from last season. Her 14 career double-doubles ties her with Margo Clark (1991-94) for seventh-most in school history.
Arizona Career Double-Double Leaders
— Dominique McBryde set season-highs in points (19), rebounds (eight) and blocks (four) at Oregon State. Arizona is 17-2 when McBryde is in the starting lineup and 10-0 at home. McBryde averages 3.3 steals per game in her last four games and is fifth in the Pac-12 in steals per game.
— The Cardinal owns a 69-13 lead in its series with the Wildcats. They have won 33 of the last 34 in the series. Before Stanford’s 56-54 win last season at Palo Alto, it had defeated Arizona by at least 15 points seven straight meetings.
— Kiana Williams’ 214 career 3-pointers are good for fifth in school history. She was was named one of 10 finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. Williams will likely play against McDonald in what would be a matchup worth the price of admission.
— VanDerveer has a 1,091-251 (.813) record as a college head coach and is eight victories shy of passing Pat Summitt (1,098) as the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history. VanDerveer has a record of 510-81 (.864) in the regular season of the Pac-12. She became the first women’s basketball head coach with that many wins in a single Division I conference with a home win over California this season.
— In the 74-66 loss to Oregon at home Monday, Lexie Hull made a career-high six 3-pointers en route to 27 points. She was joined in double figures by 14 from Williams.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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.