Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Pac-12 team-by-team postseason outlook
The conference that has won more NCAA Tournament games than any other over the past three years, is sending six teams to the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Pac-12 is represented with six top-8 seeds, three hosting sites and a bevy of opportunities for long tournament runs. Let’s break down the first-round matchups for the Six-Pac.
No. 8-seed California (19-12) vs. No. 9-seed North Carolina (18-14)
Date/Time: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Location: Waco, Texas
History: North Carolina leads series, 2-1. Last played in 1999-2000 season.
Prospects: The last dance for Kristine Anigwe, Asha Thomas and Recee’ Caldwell. Last year’s late-season momentum ended with an abrupt first-round loss to Virginia in a game without Anigwe on the floor. This year, the Bears are making the seventh NCAA appearance in the last eight seasons looking to do some long-lasting damage. Cal has reached the second round in seven of its last eight NCAA appearances and are facing a possible second-round matchup against Baylor, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Anigwe brings 31 consecutive double-doubles and the nation’s best rebounding numbers into her final NCAA Tournament. North Carolina has four players averaging double-figures scoring and are led by guard Paris Kea at 17.1 points per game.
No. 2-seed Stanford (28-4) vs. 15 UC Davis (25-6)
Date/Time: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Location: Stanford, Calif.
History: Stanford leads the series, 9-2. Last played in the 2016-17 season.
Prospects: The Cardinal will be very comfortable at home in Maples, where they have a 36-4 record in NCAA Tournament games. After winning the Pac-12 Tournament title, Stanford is feeling confident and hoping they are peaking in time for another Final Four run. Alanna Smith is one of two players nationally averaging 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game overall, and is attempting to become just the fifth player in program history to average 20.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in a season, joining Chiney Ogwumike (2013-14 and 2012-13), Nneka Ogwumike (2011-12), Nicole Powell (2003-04) and Jeanne Ruark Hoff (1979-80 and 1978-79).
2 Oregon (29-4) vs. 16 Portland State (25-7)
Date/Time: Friday, 6 p.m.
Location: Eugene, Ore.
History: Oregon leads the series, 27-10. Last played in 2016.
Prospects: The Ducks, a No. 2 seed for the second year in a row, have recovered from the Pac-12 Tournament title game loss to Stanford and are gearing up to face a familiar opponent in Portland State. Portland State won the Big Sky Conference Tournament after knocking off top-seeded Idaho in the semifinals and won the Big Sky as a No. 4 seed. Oregon is looking to settle back into its offensive groove as the nation’s top-scoring team and stay consistent on the way to a first-ever Final Four berth. Oregon head coach Kelly Graves has taken three teams to the Elite Eight and is primed with an experienced team led by two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu to take the next step.
4 Oregon State (24-7) vs. 13 Boise State (28-4)
Date/Time: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Location: Corvallis, Ore.
History: Oregon State leads series, 9-3. Last played in 2001.
Prospects: The Beavers couldn’t have been happy about their quarterfinal exit from the Pac-12 Tournament, but keeping the opportunity to host the first two-rounds of the Tournament in Corvallis – for the fourth time in five years - was a good consolation prize. Oregon State is making its sixth straight NCAA appearance. The Broncos, in the brackets for the third straight year, won the Mountain West Conference tournament and were hoping not to have to play on another team’s home court to open the tournament. Oregon State’s road will get a lot tougher if the Beavers can hold serve on their home court with potential back-to-back Albany matchups with top-seeded Louisville and then No. 2 Connecticut.
6 UCLA (20-12) vs. 11 Tennessee (19-12)
Date/Time: Saturday, 10:00 a.m.
Location: College Park, Md.
History: Tennessee leads the series 18-1. Last played in 2011.
Prospects: Playing at Maryland, the UCLA Bruins, one of the hottest teams in the country, are playing the venerable Lady Vols, who were one of the last teams inserted into the brackets and were in serious danger of missing the tournament for the first time ever (38 seasons). UCLA, winners of 11 of its last 14 games, is playing its best basketball of the season, with redshirt junior guard Japreece Dean coming off a pair of 20-point games in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins are making their fourth straight trip to the tournament and have reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons. The winner of this game could face the host team Maryland in what will be a tough game to reach the regional semifinal.
5 Arizona State (20-10) vs. 12 Central Florida (26-6)
Date/Time: Friday, 4 p.m.
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
History: Never played.
Prospects: A long trip to Coral Cables is in store for the Sun Devils, who are setting a school record with their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearances. ASU will be taking on an unfamiliar foe in UCF, a team that shares a defensive mindset. This promises to be one of the most intense, defensive matchups of the entire tournament. The Knights have one scorer in double figures, junior guard Korneila Wright. The Sun Devils know how to win NCAA games having won at least one in 11 of their last 12 appearances and if they can win two here, they will promptly head back to the west coast for the Sweet 16.
(All Times PT)
The Arizona Wildcats are the only Pac-12 team in the WNIT field. Utah turned down an invitation because of a short-handed roster that has resulted from a handful of significant injuries. USC pulled its name out of consideration for the WNIT Tournament before the brackets were announced.
Arizona (18-13) is marking its first postseason appearance since 2011 and will host Idaho State in the first round on Thursday. The Wildcats beat Idaho State on November 9, 71-46.