Ducks leery of teams looking to turn the tables
Oregon was the surprise of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Now the Ducks have got everyone’s attention.
It’s the price of success for the second-seeded Ducks , who open the tournament at home on Friday against No. 15 seed Seattle.
Oregon finished the regular season 30-4 overall and 16-2 in the Pac-12. In addition to the league’s regular-season title, the Ducks also won the conference tournament.
The seeding is the highest in team history, as are the 30 wins. The conference championship was also a first.
Oregon made history last season, too, going to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The Ducks finished that season 23-14 overall and lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament title game.
But after earning an at-large spot in the tournament, Oregon swept through seventh-seeded Temple, No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Maryland before getting bumped by top-seeded UConn.
Teams are going to try to turn the tables on the Ducks this year.
“A little different,” coach Kelly Graves said of the Ducks’ position. “I don’t think you can tell that it’s different from the way we’ve practiced this week. I think the focus has been tremendous. We have the luxury of knowing that we better come ready to play. We were in a situation last year where we were a 10 and we had to beat a No. 7 and then we had to beat a No. 2.”
Guard Sabrina Ionescu, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season, earned Player of the Year honors and leads the Ducks with 19.4 points this season. She’s probably best known for her NCAA career-record eight triple-doubles.
Teammate Ruthy Hebard, also a sophomore, is averaging 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
“Coach always reminds us that we were the lower seed and we beat the higher seeds. So we’re definitely staying focused and just getting ready to beat whoever comes in our path,” Hebard said.
Seventh-seeded Green Bay plays No. 10 Minnesota in the early game Friday.
SCOUTING SEATTLE U: The Redhawks are making their first -ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Seattle finished 18-14 overall this season but took the WAC Tournament with a 57-54 victory over Cal State Bakersfield in the title game.
Alexis Montgomery, who is from Beaverton, Oregon, leads the Redhawks with 18.9 points.
“My dad was hoping we would play Oregon because it’s only an hour and a half drive away, so we should have lots of support and lots of good energy coming from the Northwest.” Montgomery told the Seattle Times. “It’s super exciting. I can’t really describe it with words. We’re super grateful we just have the opportunity to play more than the regular season.”
SCOUTING GREEN BAY: The Phoenix finished the season 29-3 and ranked No. 22 in the final AP Poll. They are making their 18th tournament appearance. Last year, Green Bay fell to Purdue in the opening round.
The Phoenix have won seven straight going into Friday’s game, including the Horizon League championship game, a 62-44 victory over Wright State.
“We are excited for an opportunity to play,” coach Kevin Borseth told reporters following the selection show. “I think we were probably seeded exactly where people thought we would have been seeded. We have been to Oregon once before (in 2003) and we have been successful out there, so we will see if we can go out there and do it again.”
SCOUTING MINNESOTA: The Golden Gophers finished 23-8 and earned their first trip to the NCAAs since 2015. Minnesota has been to the tournament 10 times overall, reaching the Final Four in 2004.
The Golden Gophers are coming off a 90-88 loss to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
“We have a lot of respect for them, they’ve had an incredible season,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said of Green Bay. “We know that we have to come in very prepared and ready to go. It’s going to be a battle tomorrow — they’re very well coached.”
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner moves on to Spokane, Washington, to face the winner that comes out of Columbus, Ohio. Sixth-seeded LSU (19-9) plays No. 11 Central Michigan (28-4) on Saturday before third-seeded Ohio State (27-6) plays No. 14 George Washington (19-13).