The University of Utah was an overwhelming choice to win the first Western Athletic Conference women's basketball championship Sunday at the WAC Basketball Media Day.
In a poll of WAC coaches, the Utes were given five first-place votes and 47 points. Wyoming received the other two first-place votes and 42 points. San Diego State was picked to finish third (31 points), Creighton fourth , Colorado State fifth , BYU sixth and Texas-El Paso seventhWomen's teams are competing as members of the WAC for the first time this season. All except San Diego State and Texas-El Paso belonged to the High Country Athletic Conference last year.
Wyoming won the HCAC championship a year ago; Utah finished third. Wyoming returns five players with starting experience, but the rest of the team is young and inexperienced."
Utah returns four starters from last year's team, including Kristi Smith, last year's leading scorer (15.8) and rebounder (7.0). The Utes also return Karen Alcorn, who averaged 11 points a game last year as a sophomore, and Melanee McQueen, a second-team, all-conference guard the past two seasons.
"As much progress as we made last year, we should certainly be better this year," said Ute coach Elaine Elliott, whose team finished 20-10 overall last season and 6-4 in league play. The Utes have won at least 19 games in each of the last five seasons.
"Utah and Wyoming . . . they're the ones we're all going to point toward," said San Diego coach Beth Burns.
Creighton coach Bruce Rasmussen agreed: "Utah and Wyoming have established themselves as the teams to look to."
BYU, which has endured three consecutive losing seasons, returns four starters from last year's 10-16 team. Their best player is junior Lisa Rathbun, last year's leading scorer (16.3) and rebounder (8.0), but she is suffering from bursitis in the hip. "We may end up redshirting her, and that will be very difficult for us," said coach Jeanie Wilson.
The Cougars play 11 of their first 15 games on the road.