Washington State probably isn't the first program that comes to mind for women's basketball fans when thinking about the Pac-12, but the Cougars turned some heads on the west coast with their run to the 2012 Pac-12 Tournament semifinals where they fell to a talented California Golden Bears squad.
To put that in perspective, the Cougars had never gotten out of the first round of the Pac-10/12 tournament since its inception in 2002 before last year's run.
That's just how things have been in Pullman for the last decade as alluded to by Michael Preston of SB Nation's Coug Center.
June Daugherty's rebuild continues into it's sixth year and it's been longer and more arduous than I think even she thought it would be. The difficulty lies in just how good the top of the conference, especially Stanford, can be. Since the conference started playing varsity women's basketball in 1986-1987, Stanford has won the conference title in all but six seasons. The good news is Daugherty knows how to knock off Stanford as she did just that with her 2000-2001 Washington Huskies squad.
Needless to say, last year's tournament run was like a breath of fresh air for the Cougars and perhaps there's reason to believe that they can at least challenge to move up into the middle of the now-12 team conference this season.
Yet the media poll is less optimistic about a Cougars team that lost athletic guard Jazmine Perkins to graduation: the Cougars finished tenth in the Pac-12 media poll and the voting in that poll reflects what keen observers might see as clear tiers of talent in the conference.
The question for Washington State is how easily they might be able to leapfrog some of those teams that people might consider ahead of them.
For more on the Pac-12 conference, visit the season preview at Pac-12.org with preseason poll results and the preseason All-Pac-12 selections.