Pac-12 preview: University of Washington

This is the second in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned last year for the University of Washington Huskies.

Coach Kevin McGuff left Xavier after a celebrated career there to take over the program in Seattle, and he assembled an all-star coaching cast. But before pre-season even started, leading scorer Kristi Kingma tore her ACL and was out for the year. Two of the Huskies’ four freshmen, forward Talia Walton and guard/forward Deborah Meeks, also were injured in the weeks that followed, and opted to redshirt the season.

The understaffed team did well considering: they were 20-14 overall, 8-10 in conference and made it to the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament before succumbing to power house Stanford, who went on to the Final Four. But this year could be brighter for the UW, despite lack of experience, another injury and possible size issues.

Kingma, a guard/forward, is back and ready to go, as is sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis, who was the Huskies’ second-leading scorer last year. Starting guard Mercedes Wetmore also returns, as does guard Kellie McCann-Smith and forward Aminah Williams. This should help make up for the loss of 6-foot-4 Regina Rogers, who was last year’s top point-getter. Three other seniors – one a starter and the other two, key reserves – are also gone.

McGuff had been counting on 6-foot-3 freshman Katie Collier, ranked 22 in last year’s class, and a member of the McDonald’s All-American team. But Collier sustained a knee injury over the summer and is out for the season. Walton, at 6-foot-2, hasn’t had college playing time. The Huskies remaining freshmen, guard/forward Heather Corral and forward/center Mathilde Gilling, are both over six feet, but also lack experience.

McGuff is already planning to step up the UW’s running and shooting game until the taller players catch on – typical for coaches with shorter rosters. This is not foreign territory for McGuff, who was known for his fast, aggressive teams at Xavier.

The Huskies preseason schedule includes match ups against San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine, Wisconsin and Long Beach State. Their season opener is Nov. 9, at home vs. Saint Mary’s.

Such a schedule, which seems to build in difficulty as the weeks lead up to conference play, might allow the UW to collect experience, develop some team chemistry and make a run in the Pac-12.