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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Women’s basketball eyes NCAA tournament bid

Colin Prenger
Colin Prenger / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA Women’s basketball team held their first practice Monday, Sept. 3, in Richard Jefferson Gym.

Entering her fourth season as Arizona women’s basketball head coach, Niya Butts’ expectations all lean on one goal — making the NCAA tournament.

With the changes in scheduling and expansion of the Pac-12 that includes Colorado and Utah, Butts is only focusing on her Wildcats.

“Arizona basketball is still going to be Arizona basketball,” Butts said. “But it’s certainly going to be different, because you don’t know what they’re going to bring at the moment, you’re trying to figure out what kind of schemes they’re going to have — how they’ll play. But you know what, we go into it playing our type of basketball, we should come out happy with the ending.”

For the Wildcats, the goal is the NCAA tournament, an opportunity that barely slipped out of Arizona’s grasp last year.

“We’re really trying to get to the tournament,” said junior guard Davellyn Whyte. “We missed it by a couple of games, and we need to beat the ranked teams that we didn’t beat. As our team goal, we all want to get to the big tournament this year.”

Last season, the Wildcats finished fourth in the conference with a record of 21-12.

Over the past three seasons as head coach, Butts has revitalized the women’s basketball program.

The proof is in the numbers.

In the 2008-09 season, the Wildcats won 12 games, and their record improved in 2009-10 with 14 wins and then in 2010-11 with 21 wins. It was the most wins for the team since the 2003-04 season.

In her fourth season, Butts continues to set the bar higher.

“I told them 21 wins is not enough,” Butts said. “Clearly, we didn’t get into the NCAA tournament. That’s obviously our goal. If we don’t come everyday to work, and to plan to outwork our opponents, we won’t get there again this year, and they understand that. I think they’re hungry.”

Whyte acknowledged the even higher expectations of the team.
“Last year we picked it up, so this year I can say it’s kind of expected for us to at least meet the same standards we did last year.”

Yesterday marked the team’s first official practice of the season, where the six new players got their first chance to practice with the returners.

“They are all playing pretty well right now — very talented, but again, thinking every second, and we gotta’ get them to react and not think so much,” Butts said of the new faces.

“We are super athletic, but boy you can tell it’s the first day,” Butts said. “Nerves are a little bit shaky, but they’re working hard. We feel really good about what we have, we just got to put it all in the right place.”

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