Michelle Smith breaks down women’s Pac-12 basketball teams in NCAA Tournament
The NCAA tournament brackets are out and based on the last few years of stellar performance from the Pac-12, it’s the time of year for this conference. Last April, two Pac-12 teams took the stage to play for the NCAA title for the first time in league history, with Stanford winning its first national championship since 1992 against upstart Arizona.
Six Pac-12 teams have reached NCAA court this season. After a season in which key injuries and COVID breaks impacted the conference’s ability to flood tournament support with some of the regular attendees, like UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona State, new faces have emerged. . Colorado and Utah will be on the field for the first time in a long time. Washington State makes two in a row. Arizona and Oregon will be looking to keep their national profile high and No. 1 seed Stanford want to mount a strong defense of their championship and become the first repeat champions since 2016.
Let’s break it down for each of the conference teams that clinched their tickets to a tournament that now includes the ‘March Madness’ moniker, four playoff games and renewed energy with the return of host venues, regional venues and, best of all. , crowds of cheering supporters.
- Plant: 1
- Region: Spokane
- Opponent in the first round: 16th Montana State (22-12, Big Sky Champions)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 18 – 7 p.m. PT – Stanford, Calif. – ESPN2
- To sum up: The Cardinal finished a perfect Pac-12 season and led his winning streak to 20 with a win over Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament title game last Sunday, cementing his status as the No. 2 seed. of the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal faces South Carolina in the group, which sets up a possible Titans clash in the national championship game, should the two teams come to that.
- Outlook: The Cardinal is motivated to make his NCAA title defense by racing through Spokane, the hometown of seniors Lexie and Lacie Hull. Home cooking did pretty well last year for Stanford, winning a trophy in Kiana Williams’ hometown of San Antonio, why not try again? Stanford certainly looks set for a really long run, and what do they need to finish it – 3-point shooting, excellent defense and keeping Cameron Brink out of trouble.
- Take note: Stanford has been seeded No. 1 12 times and six times since 2010.
- Plant: 4
- Region: Greensboro
- Opponent in the first round: No. 13 UNLV (26-6, Mountain West champions)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 19 – 7 p.m. PT – Tucson, Arizona – ESPN2
- To sum up: The Wildcats, NCAA finalists last year, reclaimed their top seed despite leaving the Pac-12 tournament in the quarterfinals. This was likely due to the return of senior Cate Reese, whose absence from the roster with a shoulder injury was clearly felt when Arizona lost three of its last four games. Arizona will host an NCAA Tournament game for only the second time in program history (1998).
- Outlook: The Wildcats have a great chance to sell the McKale Center and build serious home-court advantage in the first two rounds. There’s no Aari McDonald to capture the national imagination and become the go-to scorer of the playoffs. Arizona will need to defend well, they will need to bounce back (they ranked last in the Pac-12 this season) and they need a balanced score from Reese, Shaina Pellington, Sam Thomas and Lauren Ware. With only Reese and Pellington averaging double digits this season, offensive balance will be so important to making a long tournament.
- Take note: Two great scenarios in this one. Arizona senior Sam Thomas will face his sister Jade, a sophomore at UNLV in this match. And UNLV is coached by former Stanford star Lindy LaRoque, who spent three years on Tara VanDerveer’s team before taking his first head coaching job last season. She will know Arizona well.
- Plant: 5
- Region: Wichita
- Opponent in the first round: Belmont No. 12 (22-7, Ohio Valley Champions)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 19 – 2:30 p.m. PT – Knoxville, TN – ESPN2
- To sum up: The Ducks left Las Vegas more frustrated than anything, after a semifinal loss to Utah likely cost them their chance to host the first two rounds at home. Kelly Graves said her team, which has lost three of its last five games, will have to get out of the rollercoaster ride it’s been on all season in time for the NCAA Tournament.
- Outlook: Oregon remains a talent-packed team that can play with anyone in the country on its best day. Finding their best day will be key for the Ducks, who need a strong backcourt of Endyia Rogers (the team’s leading scorer at 14.7 ppg) and Te-Hina Paopao hitting shots and opening up space inside for Nyara Sabally and Sedona Prince, one of the most imposing post tandems in the country.
- Take note: Oregon is 4-0 in first-round games under head coach Kelly Graves. Belmont is on a 12-game winning streak heading into the game.
- Plant: seven
- Region: Greensboro
- Opponent in the first round: No. 10 Creighton (20-9, Big East overall)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 18 – 10:30 a.m. PT – Iowa City, Iowa – ESPNews
- To sum up: The Buffaloes advanced to the Pac-12 Semifinals, had one of the best regular seasons in program history, and entered the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, and the first time under the direction of head coach JR Payne.
- Outlook: Defense is the strength of this Colorado team. The Buffaloes finished in a three-way tie with Arizona and Stanford in scoring opponents at 56.8 points per game and led the Pac-12 in steals per game this season, and that could carry them early. But a team that wants a long run in the NCAA will also have to score, and the Buffaloes must hope they can bring Tameiya Sadler and Sila Finau, who has started 30 games this season, back to the field.
- Take note: Creighton is back in the tournament for the first time since 2018.
- Plant: seven
- Region: Spokane
- Opponent in the first round: No. 10 Arkansas (18-13, SEC at large)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 18 – 2:30 p.m. PT – Austin, Texas – ESPNews
- To sum up: After making the program’s first-ever run to the Pac-12 tournament title game as the No. 6 seed last weekend, the Utes, the top-scoring team in the conference this season with 76 .0 points per game, bolstered their seeding and boosted confidence among the young players who form the core of this rising team.
- Outlook: This team, which has often been called “fearless”, will see its mettle tested in a whole new way in the NCAA Tournament. Can freshmen Jenna Johnson, Gianna Kneepkens and sophomore Kennady McQueen continue to play beyond their years? Can Dru Gylten and Brynna Maxwell make the most of a chance they’ve been anticipating for so long?
- Take note: Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is familiar to Pac-12 fans after spending four years in Washington and leading the Huskies to the program’s first Final Four in 2016.
Washington State (19-10)
- Plant: 8
- Region: Bridgeport
- Opponent in the first round: No. 9 Kansas State (19-12, Big 12 at large)
- Date/Time/Location/TV: Saturday, March 19 – 8:30 a.m. PT – Raleigh, NC – ESPN2
- To sum up: The Cougars are entering the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after a 30-year absence and need to regain the momentum that led them to win five of their last seven games. A quarterfinal loss to Colorado in Las Vegas was a disappointment as WSU entered the tournament with a record 19 win program (NCAA era), the No. 3 seed and played well.
- Outlook: Kamie Ethridge becomes the first coach in program history to lead the team to consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. No one will sleep on the Leger-Walker sisters this year (Charlisse ranked fourth in the league with 16.0 ppg) and improvements from Johanna Teder and Bella Murekatete make the Cougars a dangerous first-round matchup.
- Take note: The 8-9 starting line puts the Cougars in a position to face North Carolina State at home if they pick up a first-round win.
- UCLA (14-12): The Bruins were hoping to be selected for the NCAA Tournament, but will be out for the first time since 2015 when, interestingly, they won the WNIT. UCLA is playing its best basketball of the season, is healthier, could make some noise and will be looking to finish strong before welcoming into the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. UCLA hosts UC Irvine (21-11) in the first round on Friday, March 18 at 6:50 p.m. PT.
- Oregon State (14-13): The Beavers are out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 and will look to capitalize on playoff play to set the stage for bringing in the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class as well. OSU hosts Long Beach State to open WNIT on Thursday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m. PT.