OSU women get what they want
Oregon State couldn't have asked for more as the NCAA women's basketball tournament pairings were announced on Monday.
The eighth-ranked Beavers (29-4) drew a No. 2 national seed and will play host to the first two rounds on Friday and Sunday, beginning with No. 15 seed Long Beach State (23-10) Friday at 2 p.m. at Gill Coliseum.
Scott Rueck's three-time defending Pac-12 regular-season champions are in the Stockton (California) region, in the same quadrant of the 64-team bracket as No. 1 seed South Carolina (27-4). Thus, the road to the Final Four would not go through top-ranked Connecticut for the Beavers. The Final Four will be in Dallas March 31 through April 2.
"Pretty much everything we wanted, I would say," said OSU senior guard Gabby Hanson, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award winner. "We love the fact that we're on the West Coast, which gives our fans a better opportunity to travel with us.
"This was the best-case scenario. We're happy about that."
Oregon State was one of seven Pac-12 teams to make the tournament, including Oregon (20-13), a No. 10 seed. The Ducks will square off with No. 7 seed Temple (24-7) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Durham, North Carolina.
The Beavers, who lost to UConn in the national semifinals a year ago, didn't slip in seeding despite a 48-43 loss to Stanford in the championship game of the Pac-12 postseason tournament.
"It's amazing we get to stay on the West Coast and play in Gill for the first two rounds," said senior guard Sydney Wiese, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection for the fourth straight year. "That's really appealing to all of us."
Long Beach State earned an automatic bid by winning the Big West Conference postseason tournament with a 56-55 victory over Cal Santa Barbara in the final. The 49ers, who won 15 of their last 19 games, will be making their first NCAA appearance since 1992. Coach Jody Wynn is 137-118 in her eight seasons.
The 49ers are led by 5-10 senior guard Raven Benton, who came off the bench most of the year to score a team-high 11.4 points per game. Anna Kim, a 5-5 senior point guard, averaged 10.3 points on .461 shooting, including .405 from 3-point range.
Long Beach State shoots only .389 from the field, .326 from 3-point range and .634 from the foul line. The 49ers averaged 66.4 points per game, exactly Oregon State's scoring figure this season.
Hanson is very familiar with Long Beach State's program. She is a native of Anaheim, California, 25 miles from Long Beach. One of her high school teammates, Alex Sanchez, played for the 49ers. Hanson played against Kim in high school and with her on a club team during their prep years. Wynn recruited Hanson before she chose Oregon State.
"I absolutely loved their coaching staff," Hanson said. "I watched them play a lot when I was in high school. It's a good program that's on the rise. They're a tough team. They have a strong belief in who they are. Any team like that is dangerous. It will be a good match."
Oregon State and Long Beach State both participated in a tournament at Las Vegas in December. The Beavers went 3-0, beating Nevada-Las Vegas 62-59, Quinnipiac 75-60 and Oklahoma State 73-54. The 49ers went 1-2, beating South Florida 73-68 but losing to Oklahoma State (63-57) and Quinnipiac (63-60).
The 49ers "are very athletic, with two very talented guards," Wiese said. "They play super hard. They'll be a tough out."
Should the Beavers beat Long Beach State, they'll face either No. 7 seed Creighton (23-7) or No. 10 seed Toledo (25-8) in Sunday's second round.
Creighton lost to Marquette 72-65 in the semifinals of Big East tournament. That snapped a nine-game win streak for the Blue Jays, who won 13 of their last 14 regular-season contests and were Big East co-champions.
This is Creighton coach Jim Flanery's third NCAA team in his 15 seasons (292-190). The last time the Blue Jays were in the tournament was 2013. They are led by first-team all-Big East selection Audrey Faber (13.2 points), second-team all-Big East choice Marissa Janning (11.5) and center Brianna Rollerson (9.9 points, 7.1 rebounds).
Toledo made the tournament for the eighth time and the first time since 2001. The Rockets are in the midst of an eight-game win streak after beating Northern Illinois 82-71 for the MAC postseason tournament title. Coach Tricia Cullop (202-95) is in her ninth season. Sophomore Mikaela Boyd, who won the MAC tournament MVP Award, averages 12.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals.
Should results go true to form, Oregon State would meet South Carolina in the Elite Eight. Three years ago, when Wiese, Hanson, Breanna Brown and Kolbie Orum were freshmen, the eighth-ranked Gamecocks beat the Beavers 78-69 in the second round.
"It's ironic," Wiese noted. "That was our first taste of NCAA Tournament action. It would be pretty cool to be able to meet up with them again."
"It's come full circle since we played them (in 2014)," Hanson said. "It would be great to get the opportunity to redeem ourselves."
Oregon State should regain the services of reserve guard Katie McWilliams, who missed all three Pac-12 tournament games after suffering a concussion in practice the week prior. The Beavers have had more than a week to work on their offensive attack, a problem in their loss to Stanford.
"I'm confident in our abilities," Hanson said. "We're prepared. With the toughness of our schedule and how we've played all year, I really like our chances. If we do what we do best and play to our potential, we can make a deep run in the tournament.
"You can't overlook any team in this tournament. For our seniors, this is the fourth time being in the tournament. We have the experience to carry us through a long run."
"You need some luck this time of year, to have some shots to fall," Wiese said. "But I have a good feeling about what we're capable of doing. We're going to put our best foot forward, and we're going to have a lot of fun doing it."