Stanford, led by reigning Conference Player of the Year Chiney Ogwumike, received a maximum 121 points and 11 first-place votes. California was picked to finish second after the Golden Bears reached their first Final Four in program history last season in coach Lindsay Gottlieb's second year.
"It's always an honor to be considered the top team in the Pac-12, but those are just higher expectations for us," Ogwumike said Thursday. "We really enjoy having the competition, especially with Cal. There are so many teams with depth this year. The Pac-12 is the conference to beat. The Bay Area is really becoming the heart of women's basketball."
Stanford, 33-3 in 2012-13, has reached the Final Four five of the past six years missing out last season when they were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Georgia. The Cardinal had their nation-best 82-game winning streak at home snapped in a lopsided 61-35 rout by Connecticut on Dec. 29, and then saw their 81-game unbeaten run against conference opponents come to an end against California.
Stanford has reached 25 straight NCAA tournaments, has six consecutive 30-win seasons and is the 11-time reigning conference champion — having won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles the past seven years.
In addition to the return of Ogwumike, the Cardinal also get starters Amber Orrange, Sara James and Mikaela Ruef back. The Cardinals also has a solid freshman class, starting with Kailee Johnson and Karlie Samuelson.
California,32-4 overall and 17-1 in the conference, lost to NCAA Tournament runner-up Louisville in the semifinals. The Golden Bears, led by Brittany Boyd and Gennifer Brandon, return three starters and seven letterwinners.
The rest of the preseason coaches' poll: Colorado (third), Washington, UCLA, USC, Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon.