Outgoing Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is very proud to be in San Antonio to celebrate the conference’s first NCAA women’s basketball championship since 1992.
With Stanford facing Arizona on Sunday night for the national title, the conference is guaranteed its first champion since Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer and the Cardinal won it all in 1992.
“I think this is a very gratifying moment for our league that’s seen the rise of Pac-12 women’s basketball over the last decade,” Scott said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Last year would have been a special year as we had a very special team in Oregon. The conference has grown very deep.”
Scott credits the growth of the conference, which has had six different schools reach the Final Four since 2013, to the increased television coverage with the Pac-12 Network for the success. He said the league had five games total on TV during the year with no streaming before the creation of the network.
“Now we’ve had over 100 games on the networks each year since 2012,” Scott said. “That’s an investment and prioritization. Our coaches wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that national exposure and recognition are very important for recruiting. No league has more television coverage than the Pac-12.”
VanDerveer agrees. She said before the network, the league still had great teams but a lot of people didn't see them. That resulted in lesser seedings in the NCAA Tournament.
“The rest of the country has been able to see our teams and see our players and see our games,” VanDerveer said. “And I think that’s a credit to Larry Scott in the PAC 12, which we’re really we’re really excited to have been on television."
END OF THE BUBBLE
Stanford dealt with the impact of COVID on the basketball season more than any women's team that played this season, which will finally end after Sunday night's national championship game.
Sophomore forward Asthten Prechtel has a ton of things she wants to do first outside of the restrictions required to complete the season during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The main thing is I’ll be able to go home for a little bit of time, which would be nice to see my family,” Prechtel said.
In late November, Santa Clara County established COVID-19 health and safety protocols prohibiting practices and competitions. So the Cardinal hit the road and spent nearly 10 weeks away from campus. Freshman forward Cameron Brink said she feels that's been an advantage for Stanford in the bubble in San Antonio.
“We kind of knew like what being stuck in a hotel was like for weeks on end,” Brink said.
Still, it's been a very long season with plenty of isolation and restrictions.
“I just want to give my parents a big ole hug and can’t wait to hold my family, and I get emotional thinking about it," Brink said. “But it’s just been so long, so I just miss my family.”
Arizona coach Adia Barnes gets lots of great advice from Tara VanDerveer with the veteran Stanford coach working to support women, women's basketball and the Pac-12.
Barnes followed one tip, though the follow-through will have to wait until this offseason.
“She’s also someone that’s talked me into getting a Peloton bike. I don’t use it as much as her obviously, but I’m trying,” Barnes said. “That’s the goal in the offseason.”
Not only has been Barnes been busy coaching her Wildcats into their first national championship game berth, she gave birth to her second child, a daughter, last September.
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25