After UCLA and USC dropped their recent bombshell that they are leaving the PAC-12 in 2024 for the B1G super conference (think Big Ten-plus), it is safe to say their current PAC-12 women’s basketball colleagues will face repercussions for years to come.
When the dominoes stop falling in the latest round of conference mergers, elite PAC-12 women’s basketball programs– Stanford, Arizona and Oregon — should remain national WBB powerhouses, regardless of conference affiliation.
The PAC-12’s next tier of WBB programs consists of Utah, Oregon State, Washington State and Colorado — all recent NCAA Tournament participants.
Each of these programs is in a precarious position, as they may suffer a significant loss of money and prestige from any change in conference affiliation or strength.
Finally, the PAC-12’s remaining bottom three — i.e., Washington, Arizona State and Cal — are all in danger of completely losing their relevance to women’s college basketball.
oCal Talent Surge Comes to an End?
By itself, the loss of UCLA and USC will greatly reduce the PAC-12’s overall recruiting footprint in Southern California.
Of greater concern to Huskies WBB fans, if Washington remains in a weakened PAC-12, the absence of UCLA and USC as rivals could have a huge negative effect on recruiting talent to Montlake.
A look at the Huskies personnel since their 2016 Final Four appearance reveals numerous impact players were recruited to UW from the Southern California talent pool.
*UW WBB Roster Averaged 4.83 Southern California Recruits Per Year Since 2016*
The 5’11 4-star guard is a high impact recruit with outstanding offers from Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, UCLA and Arkansas.
Ultimately, the commitment to Washington of Chloe Briggs could be a watershed recruiting moment for the current regime or a fleeting moment of SoCal success that will be wistfully remembered as “what could have been.”
orCal Safety Net?
So far, we have not even take into account the possible collateral damage effect upon UW’s Northern California recruiting.
Numerous impact players were recruited to Washington from the Bay Area and its surrounding talent pools, e.g., Fresno and Sacramento, including Aari McDonald (rated as a 4-star high school prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz; and Haley Van Dyke (rated a 3-star prospect by ESPN /HoopGurlz in 2018).
A look at the Washington Huskies rosters since their 2016 Final Four appearance reveals:
*UW WBB Roster Averaged 2.71 Northern California Recruits Per Year Since 2016*
2022-23: 3 Northern California recruits (Hannah Stines, Teagan Brown, Elle Ladine Shayla Gillmer)
2021-22: 3 Northern California recruits (Haley Van Dyke, Nia Lowrey)
2020-21: 4 Northern Cal. recruits (Tameiya Sadler, Van Dyke, Lowery)
2019-20: 4 Northern Cal. recruits (Ali Bamberger, Gigi Garcia, Van Dyke)
2018-19: 6 Northern Cal. recruits (Garcia, Van Dyke)
2017-18: 6 Northern Cal. recruits (Natalie Romeo, Van Dyke)
In the new NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) compensation era, savvy Northern California UW recruits would want to play teams throughout California to help their personal brand stay relevant in their home state.
The extent to which individual recruits from Northern California are turned off about not annually competing against UCLA and USC recruits could be a major factor in UW’s recruiting success.
A negative effect upon Washington’s ability to recruit Bay Area talent would be disastrous to the Washington Women’s Basketball program.
1G Recruiting Lifeline?
So much speculation surrounds whether Washington will follow USC and UCLA to the B1G conference, it is almost hard to imagine it not occurring at some point.
If it does occur, will the Huskies Women’s Basketball program benefit from the move, specifically recruiting-wise?
Would a B1G invite to Washington throw a life preserver to UW WBB’s recruiting outlook?
On the other hand, competition in the B1G for SoCal talent will be fierce — considering Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska and Indiana were all participants in the 2022 Women’s NCAA Tournament.
Although, despite a recent downturn, the Huskies would presumably gain increased access to Midwest talent as the University of Washington still maintains a strong national brand overall and would be unique among B1G conference brethren.
Could Washington offset any loss in Southern California recruiting to B1G colleagues with an influx of elite 4-star/5-star Midwest players?
It is unlikely that there are enough top Midwest recruits for all 20 teams (or more), if the top 10 B1G programs feast on the comparatively smaller pool of Midwest players.
If added, Washington would be currently projected in the lower half of the new B1G conference, and the Huskies would be hard-pressed to compensate for a loss of Southern California recruits, either in quantity or quantity.
However, Washington’s relocation to the B1G conference seems increasingly unlikely – at least any time soon.
ig 12 a Better Fit for UW WBB?
Regardless, considering Washington’s Athletic Department has to view the PAC-12 as a sinking ship, particularly for the Huskies’ football program, UW WBB will likely be on the move to a new conference home.
And it remains questionable if the Huskies women’s basketball program could be competitive in any elite 20-team conference.
If the B1G conference fails to expands again to invite Washington, the Big 12 is expected to have high interest in Washington — among a group of either two or four Pac-12 targets.
Significantly, recent Washington women’s basketball history suggests there may be no adequate substitute for SoCal recruits from both a quality and quantity standpoint.
However, the one glaring exception is the fertile recruiting ground of Texas girls’ high school basketball — which just happens to be the Big 12’s headquarters and main recruiting territory.
The University of Washington would be an attractive destination for Texas recruits that still want to be accessible to their support network of friends and family during their college career, while providing distance and a unique experience for Texas recruits.
In the best-case scenario the Washington Women’s Basketball program achieves high impact recruiting success in Texas — that alone chould offset any loss of recruiting success among SoCal’s best recruits.
Current Husky guard Trinity Oliver is a Texas native (and Baylor transfer) that demonstrates the depth of talent that is available in Texas — she was rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN in 2017.
Regardless of conference affiliation, if Washington can diversify its high impact recruiting nationally, beyond California, it will further offset any loss of SoCal recruits from the loss of USC and UCLA as rivals.
Frankly, the State of Washington does not consistently produce enough elite Division One talent to stock a 15-player roster.
However, the Washington Huskies could also lessen the blow of any loss of conference prestige among SoCal recruits by putting the proverbial “fence around Washington” for the one or two elite recruits the state produces annually.
The recent commitment of Washington native Olivia Anderson, an elite 6’6″ big with seemingly unlimited potential, is a huge step in the right direction for a Huskies program that has missed on almost all significant home state recruits for the past five or six years.
Although a move to the BIG 12 seems to clearly favor UW WBB, it is clear that the Washington Athletics Department’s preferred destination is the B1G (Big Ten) conference — due to the more favorable financial prospects for the UW Football program, which pays the bills for UW Athletics overall.
Ultimately, however, even a windfall of recruits (or money) from joining a super conference isn’t guaranteed to solve the Huskies women’s basketball competition problems, only Tina Langley can do that.
At some point soon, Washington needs to figure out how to take a step forward again, regardless of conference strength or affiliation.