Kelly Graves' team improved to 6-0 against ranked teams with Friday's 77-68 win over No. 9 Oregon State
No. 3 Oregon is in the midst of trying to prove it is the best team in the state.
The Ducks, who extended their winning streak to 17 games with Friday’s 77-68 victory over No. 9 Oregon State at Matthew Knight Arena, could also make an argument that they are deserving of the No. 1 overall seed in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Coach Kelly Graves is going to let his team’s play do the talking.
“It’s out of my hands. I’m not going to lobby,” Graves said. “I think those that know, know. And I think we have a chance because of our schedule.”
Oregon is now 6-0 against ranked teams this season, including an 82-74 victory over then-No. 4 Mississippi State and last Sunday’s 88-48 battering of then-No. 11 Stanford.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee had the Ducks as the No. 3 overall seed and the No. 1 seed in the Portland Region in Monday’s reveal of the top 16 seeds.
No. 1 Baylor is 5-1 against ranked teams with a loss to Stanford and a victory over then-No. 1 UConn. The Bears still have No. 18 Iowa State and No. 15 Texas on the schedule.
No. 2 Louisville is also 5-1 against ranked teams with a loss to then-No. 1 Notre Dame and a win over then-No. 2 UConn.
The Ducks (24-1, 13-0) have a three-game lead in the Pac-12 standings with five games remaining in the regular season, including Monday’s rematch with the second-place Beavers (20-5, 10-3) at Gill Coliseum (6 p.m., ESPN2).
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but that helps us,” Graves said. “We play a lot of really good teams, and that’s going to help. And the other teams maybe ahead of us, they’re not going to play that kind of schedule down the stretch.
“We’re going to see one or two (ranked teams) in the (Pac-12) tournament. That sounds like a lot of fun.”
Oregon hosts UCLA and USC next weekend and plays at Arizona and No. 19 Arizona State to wrap up the regular-season slate before the Pac-12 Tournament on March 7-11 in Las Vegas.
Entering the week, the selection committee had Oregon State as the No. 3 seed in the Albany Regional with No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 2 UConn and No. 4 Miami.
The Bulldogs, the fourth overall seed, lost to Missouri this week, which opens up the door for UConn to get back on the one line.
If the Beavers are able to split the Civil War series they could perhaps move up to the two line.
“I’m excited we have tough games ahead of us,” Sabrina Ionescu said after scoring 29 points to lead the Ducks to the win over their rival, “because I think that’s only going to prepare us for what we have coming up.”
The initial Portland Regional seeding behind Oregon included No. 2 North Carolina State, No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Gonzaga.
After back-to-back appearances in the Elite Eight, the Ducks can punch their ticket to the program’s first Final Four without having to leave the state.
Before thinking too much about hosting first- and second-round games in Eugene with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 and a regional semifinal in Portland, Graves knows his team will have to play at a high level to win in Corvallis.
“These programs are not going anywhere. It’s not like we’re flashes in the pan,” Graves said. “We have two outstanding programs, we’ve got two really good coaching staffs who are working hard, and next year we both have really good players coming in to help relieve the ones we lose.
“This is going to be a rivalry that could be among the nation’s best.”