After being an eliminated in the Elite Eight each of the past two seasons, the Oregon women’s basketball team has already accomplished a feat they never have before: dancing in the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Some might consider the Ducks deep run in the NCAA Tournament a success already, but Oregon is determined to add a national championship trophy to their trophy case for the first time, and they won't go down without a fight on Friday as the second-seeded Ducks take on No. 1 Baylor.
There aren't many teams hotter than the Ducks right now. After shutting down 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State in the Elite 8, Oregon has proven it can effectively defend, as it ranks second in the country to Baylor coming into Friday's matchup. The Ducks also have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation as well, holding teams to 61.3 points per game in the tournament thus far on 36.7 percent shooting and 30.1 percent shooting from three.
Sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu is on an unstoppable kick and with a supporting cast like elite forwards Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally, Baylor, the tournament's heavy favorite, will certainly have a tough test ahead.
Let's preview No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 1 Baylor
Fun Fact: The Ducks are the best 3-point shooting team in the country (41.7 percent). Oregon players Erin Boley, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Maite Cazorla are all shooting beyond 40 percent from behind the arc.
Did you know? This is the fourth meeting between Oregon and Baylor. The Bears won the first three meetings, including an NCAA Tournament matchup in 2005.
Records: Oregon (33-4), Baylor (35-1)
A Ducks win would: Send the Ducks to the championship title game for the first time in program history.
Count on Kelly Graves: Since Oregon coach Kelly Graves took the rein in 2014, the Ducks have been a different program. In his second year, Oregon was in the WNIT semifinals. Then, following the addition of Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks made back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight. Now, Oregon is dancing in the Final Four, and it’s only a matter of time before Graves and the Ducks reach the top. Tick, tock.
Odds Are: The Bears are a 7.5-point favorite over the Ducks, according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The over/under is 147.5 total points.
One of the nation's best offenses vs. one of the nation's top defenses: Friday's showdown between the Ducks-Bears will be a battle between one of the nation's best offenses vs. one of the nation's top defenses. Oregon ranks third in the NCAA in field goal percentage, shooting 50.5 percent overall, while Baylor leads the NCAA in field goal percentage for defense, allowing teams to shoot just 31.4 percent.
Ducks X Factor: They don’t call her the triple-double queen for no reason. Sabrina Ionescu holds the NCAA’s career triple-double record and leads the country in assists with 305 this season. Against Mississippi State in the Elite Eight, Ionescu matched her season-best with 31 points, a UO record for an NCAA tournament game. The junior guard is a two-tme Pac-12 Player of the Year, back-to-back First-Team All-American; National Player of the Year candidate; and the probable No. 1 overall WNBA pick. Ionescu is averaging a double-double 19.0 points and 10 rebounds in the tournament and has scored in double figures in 70-straight games, dating back to November 2017.
Baylor's twin towers: The Bears duo of Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown are the focal point of Baylor's defense and will test Oregon junior Ruthy Hebard in terms of physicality and endurance. Brown, Baylor's 6-foot-7 center, leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and was recently a second-team AP All-American. Alongside Brown, 6-foot-4 junior forward Lauren Cox could cause problems for the Ducks in the paint, as she has so far in the tournament. Through four games in the NCAA Tournament, the pair have a combined 28.4 points, 16.4 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per-game.
Quotable: "I just think both teams are going to be aggressive and appreciative of where they are. We're not going to take it for granted that we made it to the Final Four. We've came a long way and worked all the season hard for it and the same thing applies to Baylor." - Oregon sophomore forward Satou Sabally
How and where to watch
Time: Friday, April 5, at 4 p.m. PT
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
TV: ESPN2/ESPN App