Cougars earn second top 25 ranking in program history

WSU women’s hoops ranked No. 22 in the country by AP voters



WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker takes a 3-pointer during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen managing editor

Following a historic, four-win run to the Pac-12 Championship,  WSU women’s basketball earned a No. 22 ranking in Monday’s Associated Press Women’s Basketball Top 25 Poll.

It is only the second time Cougar women’s hoops (23-10, 9-9 Pac-12) have earned an AP Poll ranking and the highest ranking in program history.

The Cougars were first ranked at the end of the 2021–22 regular season when they accomplished a then-program record 19 wins and earned the No. 25 ranking.

The Cougars join the top 25 alongside five other Pac-12 schools. Despite being Pac-12 Champions, they are the fifth-highest-ranked Pac-12 team behind No. 5 Stanford (28-5) No. 8 Utah (25-4), No. 17 UCLA (25-9) and No. 20 Colorado (23-8).

The only Pac-12 school to make the Top 25 that is ranked lower than the Cougs is No. 24 Arizona (21-9).

The Cougs have lost to each ranked team except for Arizona, but beat then-No. 3 now No. 8 Utah, No. 20 Colorado and then-No. 19 now No. 17 UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament to claim their conference title.

Coug fans on the popular Facebook group “Die Hard Cougs” and on Twitter have speculated that AP voters fail to consider the Cougs were without Charlisse Leger-Walker, the All-Pac-12 junior guard and Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for four of their losses.

A case can be made that the Cougar’s regular season would have been even more impressive with Leger-Walker present for their matchups with Utah, Colorado, USC and UCLA in Pullman, but the Cougars are where there are today with Leger-Walker having been absent for those games so the ‘what if’ train of thought is only worth as much as the time one spends on it.

The only ranked Pac-12 team the Cougs have not beaten is Stanford, a team that thoroughly destroyed them 71-38 Feb. 3 in Pullman.

The Cougs being ranked lower than Stanford is certainly understandable and a case can be made for being ranked lower than Utah after the Utes beat the Cougars twice in the regular season.

UCLA’s ranking raises some questions because the Cougs are 2-1 versus UCLA in 2023 with their loss happening without Leger-Walker. 

While the Cougs can complain about Colorado keeping their No. 20 ranking, Wazzu lost two regular season games to the Buffs, including a game in Boulder, Colorado, WITH Leger-Walker. The Cougs conceded a double-digit lead in that game so Colorado’s efforts should still be applauded.

After their No. 22 AP ranking, the Cougs received more good news as Leger-Walker was named the 2023 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after she scored a tournament-record 76 points throughout the four games in Las Vegas.

Head coach Kamie Ethridge also received much-deserved recognition when The Athletic named her their 2023 Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year.

The No. 22 WSU Cougars will learn where they will begin their third straight big dance at the NCAA Tournament 2023 Selection Sunday show at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.