#20 Washington Women's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Washington Huskies
Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #5 Pac-12
Washington took the women’s college basketball world by storm in the NCAA Tournament by going on the road and dominating the likes of Maryland and Kentucky enroute to their first women’s final appearance in program history. This has been a steady rise back to prominence under the direction of head coach Mike Neighbors. Now the question is how Washington will respond with a target on their back this season as they won’t be able to sneak up on anyone nationally. With a veteran nucleus back, led by Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor, the Huskies should hold up well against all comers as long as they stay healthy.
2015-16 Record: 26-11, 11-7
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Neighbors
Coach Record: 69-35 at Washington, 69-35 overall
Key Departed Players (starters in bold)
Talia Walton, 16.5 ppg
Alexus Atchley, 4.9 ppg
Mathilde Gilling, 2.5 ppg
Key Returning Players (starters in bold)
Kelsey Plum, Senior, Guard, 25.9 ppg
Chantel Osahor, Senior, Forward, 10.1 ppg
Katie Collier, Senior, Forward, 6.0 ppg
Brianna Ruiz, Junior, Guard, 5.6 ppg
Deja Strother, Sophomore, Center, 2.0 ppg
Kelli Kingma, Junior, Guard, 1.7 ppg
Key New Players
GiGi Garcia, Freshman, Forward
Mai-Loni Henson, Freshman, Forward
Aarion McDonald, Freshman, Guard
Amber Melgoza, Freshman, Guard
Natalie Romeo, Junior, Guard, Transfer from Nebraska, applying for immediate eligibility
Kelsey Plum is going to go down as the best overall scorer and player in the history of the Washington program if she keeps up her 25.9 points per game type of offensive performance. Plum can attack the basket, get to the line and punish you from behind the three-point arc against virtually any team in the country. However, Plum also has an ability to get her teammates involved at the right time and that was one of several reasons why the Huskies made it to the Final Four. Chantel Osahor’s ability to draw out defenders and knock down the three-point shot should only become even more effective this season. The reason for the effectiveness for Osahor is two-fold. First, Deja Strother should get more playing time and that will save some wear and tear. And secondly, if Natalie Romeo becomes eligible, defenses will not be able to double team Osahor. Romeo is a transfer from Nebraska who will provide that extra perimeter scoring threat that will create matchup nightmares for opposing coaches throughout the country. The overall increased depth should allow Coach Neighbors to use more players on a nightly basis and potentially to go 8-9 deep this season. This Washington team should return to the NCAA Tournament without too much of a problem and be a strong threat to get back to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight if they get a great seed and favorable matchups.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.4 (53rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.2 (168, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.5 (92, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 36.7 (40, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (41, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.0 (51, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 78.0 (6, 1)
Rebound Margin: 0.2 (165, 10)
Assists Per Game: 11.9 (236, 12)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (18, 1)
Madness 2017 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#3 Kelsey Plum
Madness 2016 Women’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#47 Aarion McDonald
#94 Mai-Loni Henson
#122 Gigi Garcia