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Pac-12 makes splash in recruiting

The Pac-12 Conference was the talk of the women’s college basketball world during the 2016 Final Four — well, except for Breanna Stewart and UConn making a run at a fourth consecutive national title.

The conference had two teams in the semifinals with Oregon State and Washington both advancing to the Final Four for the first time in program history.

It seemed to be a bit of a coming out party for a league that, despite the increased television coverage from the Pac-12 Networks, was still a bit of an unknown in other parts of the country.

“Going through the Pac-12 and trying to survive that thing, it's a war every night,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said during the Final Four. “It's coached so well. And what we've learned kind of as the (NCAA) tournament's gone and you hear the national narratives is that not many people get to see us. Not as many as maybe you'd hope.

“The Pac-12 Networks is unbelievable, but we are obviously on West Coast time. And so maybe we haven't done enough at this level yet to garner the attention that I think our conference deserves, and hopefully this year is getting people's attention at a different level.”

If people weren’t already beginning to tune in and take notice, they might have to with the way the conference teams have been recruiting lately.

With the final piece of the recruiting puzzle in the books for the incoming class this fall, espnW released its updated class rankings on Monday.

The Pac-12 came in second with five schools in the top 20; the ACC leads the way with six. The Big Ten and Big 12 both had three teams while the SEC had two.

Oregon, a team that did not make the NCAA tournament but did make a run to the semifinals of the WNIT last season, made the most noise of any Pac-12 team when five-star guard Sabrina Inosecu finally made her choice to sign with the Ducks on Sunday, moving them up to No. 3 in class ranking.

Ionescu, the No. 4 overall national recruit according to espnW, joins an incoming class that was already strong and now includes three five-star players, joining forwards Sierra Campisano and Ruthy Hebard, and two four-stars in its seven-player class.

“It’s who you play with that kind of builds who you are as a team and who your teammates are for the next three to four years,” Ionescu told the Daily Emerald. “They’re a great group of girls. They always made me feel like family.”

Ionescu is a 6-foot guard from Walnut Creek, Calif., and chose the Ducks over Washington after narrowing her choice to those two schools a month or so ago. Prior to Ionescu’s signing, the Ducks had the seventh-ranked class in the country.

“It’s such an amazing class,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “It validates a lot of hard work by my staff. I have to give them a lot of credit. They did phenomenal on this. ... She’s a special player, no doubt. I think she will be the glue that will make this an incredible basketball team with certainly an incredible freshman class.”

Ionescu, MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and USA Today’s national player of the year, is the highest-rated recruit to sign with Oregon in women’s basketball. Graves described her as a combo guard with a high basketball IQ, elite floor vision and the ability to shoot from long range.

Stanford, which lost to Washington in the regional finals last season and fell short of another trip to the Final Four, comes in at No. 9 as the Cardinal have signed three five-star players.

Arizona State, which shared the Pac-12 title with Oregon State last season, comes in at No. 10 with two five-stars and a four-star in its five-player class.

USC comes in at No. 12 as the Trojans signed two players in the top 100 according to espnW.

Oregon State has its best class under Scott Rueck with four players joining the mix for a team that will have to replace two players — Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin — who were drafted in the second round of the WNBA draft in April.

Mikayla Pivec headlines the class that comes in at No. 16 and has three players in the top 100 and one player each at four positions.

Those five teams, along with the likes of Washington, a young California team that made noise late in the season, and UCLA, which also made the NCAA tournament last season, could make for one of the most competitive conferences in the country in 2016-17.