The top-seeded Ducks have unfinished business in the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament this week at KeyArena after falling to Stanford in a semifinal last year.
A year ago Washington’s Kelsey Plum was the crowd-pleasing headliner of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament who attracted a record sellout crowd to KeyArena.
However, the No. 3 seed Huskies were upset in the quarterfinals by No. 6 Oregon and rising star Sabrina Ionescu, which seemingly began an improbable postseason run for the Ducks that ended in the NCAA tournament Elite Eight.
A year later, Oregon and Ionescu return to Seattle looking to resolve some unfinished business.
Women’s Pac-12 Tournament schedule
All games at KeyArena.
Thursday, March 1
Game 1: No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Utah, 11:30 a.m. PT (Pac-12 Networks)
Game 2: No. 5 California vs. No. 12 Washington, 2 p.m. (P12N).
Game 3: No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 Washington State, 6 p.m. (P12N)
Game 4: No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Arizona, 8:30 p.m. (P12N).
Friday, March 3
Game 5: No. 1 Oregon vs. Game 1 winner, 11:30 a.m. (P12).
Game 6: No. 4 UCLA vs. Game 2 winner, 2 p.m. (P12N).
Game 7: No. 2 Stanford vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m. (P12N).
Game 8: No. 3 Oregon State vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m. (P12N).
Saturday, March 4
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6 p.m. (P12N).
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8:30 p.m. (P12N).
Sunday, March 5
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m. (ESPN2).
Following their win over UW, the Ducks fell in a semifinal to eventual tournament champion Stanford.
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This time, Ionescu and No. 1 seed Oregon are the favorite and poised to capture the school’s first conference-tournament title.
The tournament begins Thursday with four games between teams seeded between fifth and 12th, while the top four seeds receive byes into Friday’s quarterfinals.
The title game is 6 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2, and every other contest will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
Here’s a primer to get you up to speed.
• No. 1 seed Oregon is loaded and features a trio of stars in Ionescu, the Pac-12 MVP, sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard and freshman Satou Sabally, who were all chosen to the All-Pac-12 team.
Hebard is fourth among Pac-12 players in scoring (18.0 per game), fifth in rebounding (8.8 per game) and first in field-goal percentage (66.6 percent).
Meanwhile, Sabally was tops in the Pac-12 among freshmen in scoring (10.9) and field-goal percentage (44.9 percent).
In addition, the Ducks are bolstered by junior Maite Cazorla, who is sixth in assists (5.0) in the conference.
• No team has dominated the Pac-12 like No. 2 Stanford. The Cardinal was a No. 2 seed last year when capturing its 12th conference tournament title in the past 16 years.
• No. 3 Oregon State, the 2016 Pac-12 tournament winner, still has a championship pedigree. Senior center Marie Gulich, who averages 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds, is the only holdover from the championship team two years ago. The Beavers are riding a seven-game winning streak, but they’re 2-3 against the other top seeds.
• It’s been somewhat of a disappointing season for No. 4 UCLA, which was picked to win the Pac-12 and expected to be a national powerhouse led by All-America candidates Jordin Canada and Monique Billings.
Canada and Billings are the Pac-12’s top two WNBA prospects and projected to be selected in the first round of the draft.
THE DARK HORSES
Since the Pac-12 expanded in 2012, USC is the only team to win four games and capture the conference tournament.
The Trojans were the No. 5 seed in 2014 and became the first team that didn’t have a first-round bye to advance to the championship game. They beat OSU 71-62 for the title.
Last year, Oregon became the third lower-seeded team to win a quarterfinal game since the Trojans did it in 2014.
Considering their regular-season performances against the top teams, the odds are long on the lower-seed teams this week.
No. 5 California was 1-4, No. 6 Arizona State 1-6 and No. 7 USC 1-7 against the top four seeds during the regular season. The remaining lower-seed teams were a combined 0-30 versus the higher-seed teams.
WHAT ABOUT UW?
The injury-riddled Huskies (7-22) are staggering toward their worst record in school history. They’ve lost 10 straight games, which is two shy of the UW record.
Washington finished the regular season with an 83-67 loss to California on Sunday and finished last in the Pac-12 at 1-17. It was UW’s lowest finish and worst record since the inception of conference play in 1986-87.
No. 12 seed Washington faces the No. 5 Golden Bears on Thursday.
Sophomore guard Amber Melgoza finished second in the Pac-12 in scoring (18.6 points per game) and averaged a league-best 20.6 points in conference play.
Washington is down to just seven healthy players.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
According to ESPN’s bracket guru Charlie Creme, seven Pac-12 teams will comfortably advance to next week’s NCAA tournament and not one is danger of being knocked out with an early exit this week.
The only real drama as it pertains to the Big Dance is if Oregon (27-4) can capture a No. 1 seed.
The Ducks, the Pac-12 regular-season champions, are No. 2 in Creme’s mock tournament bracket and could overtake ACC champion Louisville (29-2).
The other projected No. 1 seeds – undefeated Connecticut and Mississippi State and one-loss Baylor – should be a lock to remain in the top spots.
The Pac-12’s other projected NCAA tournament teams include: No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 OSU, No. 8 Cal, No. 8 ASU and No. 10 USC.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
G Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon: 5-foot-11 sophomore won the Pac-12 MVP award after leading the conference in scoring (19.2 points) and assists (7.8). Ionescu averages 2.8 three-pointers and shoots 44.3 percent behind the arc.
G Jordin Canada, UCLA: The 5-6 senior is the first woman in Pac-12 history to score 1,800 points and dish out 700 assists. She broke the conference all-time assists record. Canada averages 16.3 points, 7.1 assists and a league-high 3.1 steals.
F Monique Billings, UCLA: The 6-4 senior forward leads the Pac-12 with 9.8 rebounds per game. She shoots 48.3 percent from the floor and averages 15.0 points.
G Brittany McPhee, Stanford: The Seattle native who starred at nearby Mount Rainier High can write a storybook ending to a decorated college career with a third Pac-12 tournament title in her hometown. McPhee missed nine games due to a foot injury and was still voted to her second All-Pac-12 team after averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
F Alanna Smith, Stanford: The 6-4 junior averaged 10.3 points in the Pac-12 tournament last year and came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting in the title game to lead the Cardinal to a 48-43 win over Oregon State. Smith is averaging 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds this season.