Pac-12 champions face Portland State in first round on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena
Kelly Graves, like many passionate Oregon women’s basketball fans, was looking forward to the NCAA Tournament watch party at Matthew Knight Arena.
And then his son Max called to tell him that ESPN had spoiled the fun.
The network accidentally revealed the bracket hours before the scheduled selection show on Monday, prompting the cancellation of the public gathering to see where the Ducks were placed by the selection committee.
The back-to-back Pac-12 champions are still celebrating the chance to take a familiar road on their drive toward the program’s first Final Four appearance.
Oregon, the No. 2 seed in the Portland Regional, will open the tournament against No. 15 Portland State on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena (approximately 6 p.m., ESPN2)
No. 7 Texas will face No. 10 Indiana in the other first-round game on Friday (4 p.m., ESPN2) with the winners meeting on Sunday.
“The honest truth is any time you can play as close to home as possible, any coach would welcome that and appreciate that,” Graves said of Oregon's draw. “At the same time, we’ve got to win two games to get (to Portland).”
If the Ducks (29-4) advance to the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight at Moda Center, there is a good chance they will run into an opponent they’ve already beaten this season.
Top-seeded Mississippi State, which lost in the national championship game the past two seasons, opens the tournament at home on Friday against No. 16 Southern. No. 8 South Dakota and No. 9 Clemson are also headed to the Starkville, Miss., quadrant.
No. 3 Syracuse hosts No. 14 Fordham and No. 6 South Dakota State plays No. 11 Quinnipiac on Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y. No. 5 Arizona State plays No. 12 Central Florida in Coral Gables, Fla., where No. 4 Miami is hosting Florida Gulf Coast in the other first-round game.
The Ducks defeated Mississippi State (82-74) and Syracuse (75-73) at Matthew Knight Arena and South Dakota State (87-79) on the road during nonconference play. Oregon also swept the Sun Devils (77-71 in Eugene, 66-59 in Tempe) during Pac-12 play.
The other No. 1 seeds in the 64-team bracket are Baylor (Greensboro Regional), Notre Dame (Chicago Regional) and Louisville (Albany Regional).
No. 4 Oregon State will host No. 13 Boise State in the first round of the Albany Regional on Saturday at Gill Coliseum, with No. 5 Gonzaga and No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock also playing in Corvallis.
The other Pac-12 teams to make the field are No. 2 Stanford (Chicago), No. 6 UCLA (Albany) and No. 8 California (Greensboro).
“We knew that Portland was going to be an option about a year ago when we were talking about the fact that we could potentially have two games at home and two games in Portland to get to a Final Four,” Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu said recently. “We knew that our fans would come out and support us and basically it would be like two home games.
“That’s the big picture and that’s something we’re striving for, but that’s not our center focus.”
Oregon, which is No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, has advanced to the Elite Eight the past two seasons.
The Ducks are coming off a 64-57 loss to Stanford on March 10 in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game in Las Vegas.
“They appear to be refreshed, energized and excited about a new season,” Graves said of his players, who were given most of the week off to rest and prepare for final exams.
Portland State won its first Big Sky Tournament title as freshman Desirae Hansen hit a jumper with 3.1 seconds left to deliver the 61-59 win over Eastern Washington.
The Vikings (25-7) are led by fifth-year seniors Sidney Rielly 14.4 ppg) and Ashley Bolston (12.4 ppg).
Graves, who was on his way to Matthew Knight Arena to begin some early film study ahead after Friday’s matchup prematurely became public, isn’t focused on possible Final Four roadblocks in Portland.
Looking ahead could spoil another party.
“We can’t take anything for granted and assume we’re going to get there,” Graves said.