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The W at Washington: Tuesday Q&A

Collaboration at its finest

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 27 Womens Washington at Arizona
Washington Huskies forward Lauren Schwartz #2 and Arizona Wildcats guard Lauren Fields #23 fight for the ball during the second half
Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To shake things up, I’ve asked the Pound’s own Q&A expert to sit down and go through some questions for me. What can we expect about the women’s basketball team?

The women’s team had a relatively successful season compared to where they were the previous year with a women’s NIT berth and a pretty lengthy run. What do you attribute that to?

Well first thing’s first, thank you for having me Mark. UWDP is made better everyday by you. To address your question, I want to start off by declaring that this team took a MIGHTY step in the right direction last year. The team had the most home wins since the 2016-17 season and we all know what happened that year with that team. It was also the most wins in a season since that same season and after receiving an automatic bid to the NIT, this team went the farthest it’s ever been in that tournament — the Fab 4. Also because of how this team placed in that tournament, they got to host the initial part of that bracket.

They won their first game in Corvallis since 2013 and won their first Apple Cup since 2020. When we played host to Stanford, the then number two team in the country we won, achieving our first win against a top five opponent since the 2015-2016 season when we beat Maryland and made it to our first Final Four in school history. We beat Oregon for the first time since 2017. That and a plethora of women’s awards gone their way meant this team was special for all the right reasons. But why? That is the question before us, eh?

If we are going by traditional standards, it takes a couple years for coaches to build a successful program in their mold. The peak can’t be reached until year three or four. Take Chris Petersen in football for example who had to endure the likes of Cyler Miles & co. If we are sticking with using football as an example we can even argue that Kalen DeBoer’s peak has yet to be reached. That’s the first thing going on here with Coach Tina Langley. She picked up a nine win program and in two years turned them into a stellar 19 win program. And one thing that is always missed is the fact that she did this in a conference with nine post season teams. The opponents were loaded and a win against No. 2 Stanford shows her tenacity. She’s going into her third season with the team growing at the right time. She still has an overall losing record, but in this conference we’d be willing to forgive a year one 7-16 record.

The other thing is the transfer portal. Outside of football, the new transfer portal rules and the new NIL rules are overlooked. But just as that accelerated Kalen DeBoer’s transformation, the same can be said for the Washington Husky Women’s basketball team. Dalayah Daniels, for example, is a name that you will hear many times this season and her face will be at the forefront of everything discussing the Huskies. On a 19-15 team, she secured an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention after eight double-double games. The 6’4 forward started every game and shot 49.7% on FGs last season. She was a defensive stalwart on the fortified machine Langley runs with 52 blocks and 37 steals. And she was a transfer from Cal (makes sense why her highest scoring conference game was against Cal).

Lauren Schwartz secured the same award and was with the team for two whole years. Before Washington? She was a player for Rice who followed Langley over in 2021 when the coach was hired. Jayda Noble, Pac-12 All-Defensive Team Honorable Mention, was a transfer from San Diego State. So clearly what we have is a team with a coach who sports a winning message and transfers finding their identity in Seattle.

What’s the returning talent look like?

Oh boy, I did not see this coming. I feel kind of salty that the returning talent was largely covered by the above question. I did dive into Daniels’ stats fairly readily while skipping the other two so lets take a look at them.

Jayda Noble averaged four-and-a-half points a game, a mile behind the likes of players such as Dalayah Daniels, but her strength was defense. Fielding 21 blocks and 53 steals last season, the 5’11 guard’s strength lay in the rebound game with 115 defensive rebounds and 64 offensive rebounds in 811 minutes. Regularly she eclipsed her own record last year for rebounds in a game. She fits in Langley’s mold who appears very defensive minded, the Huskies having achieved their best defensive field goal percentage (38%) since 2013.

I will move to another player I’m excited for is Elle Ladine, a 5’11 guard from the Golden State who posted a game average of 6 points a game as a Freshman. She scored a career high of 21 against Stanford, who has been mentioned enough times as the number two team in the country at the time of playing. In an NIT win over Oregon she was the highest scorer on the court (both teams!) with sixteen points. All of this came with her playing less than half a game every time on average.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 27 Womens Washington at Arizona
Arizona Wildcats guard Jade Loville #30 dribbles between 2 Washington Huskies defenders during the first half of a women’s basketball game
Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How does UW fit in the hierarchy of the conference, with Stanford (presumably) at the top?

Assuming this is a question more so in relation to what the preseason power rankings would look like, I’d have to take some time to figure it out. The Huskies beat Oregon in the Great 8 last year and for that I’d put them above our rivals from across the river. But in relation to Stanford, I’m not sure yet. I do have enough to say they are one of the better teams in the Pac-12 and that is top six, though top five is likely.

Breaking it up and separating ourselves from power rankings when compared to other teams I’d put this team top three or four defensively.

What do you think this team’s ceiling is?

The team escaped last year’s match up against No. 2 Stanford with a victory in what was the most crowded Husky Women’s game since the 2018-19 season. I am not sure that can be replicated, but here’s to hoping, right? In all honesty, I envision a tournament berth for this team with, at the very least, a top four finish for them. Even if we don’t get past Stanford, we have the tools to control at least the rest of the Pac-12 North.