PORTLAND — Taylor Chavez was back on the court with her teammates Thursday.

Officially, the freshman guard is a game-time decision for second-seeded Oregon’s Sweet 16 matchup with No. 6 South Dakota State on Friday at Moda Center (8:30 p.m., ESPN2).

> Related: Oregon women’s basketball looking for second win over South Dakota State in Sweet 16

When the Ducks took the floor for practice, Chavez was participating for the first time since being diagnosed with a fractured metatarsal after the regular-season home final against USC on Feb. 24.

“It is starting to feel a lot better,” Chavez said. “I’m excited I get to do a little bit of the drills (Thursday) to work my way back in to some live stuff. … Right now, we’re going to see how it feels and make that decision (Friday) about that game. If not, I’m feeling really good about Sunday.

“It depends just on how it feels the days I wake up.”

Chavez averaged 4.5 points and 18.4 minutes off the bench in 28 games during the regular season. During the Ducks’ 87-79 win over the Jackrabbits on Dec. 12 in Brookings, S.D., she finished with seven points, three steals and an assist in 22 minutes.

“She really played well for us last time against South Dakota State,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “(She) gave us a huge lift, was on the court down the stretch and defensively was on point, made some game-winning plays for us.”

Graves’ healthy bench players — guard Morgan Yaeger and forwards Oti Gildon and Lydia Giomi — have all had their moments during the postseason run.

“It’s been awesome,” said Yaeger, who made three key 3-pointers during the overtime win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas. “I just want to be able to come on the court and be that energy player that does all the little dirty work sort of stuff.”

Giomi scored seven points in her NCAA Tournament debut, Oregon’s 78-40 win over Portland State a week ago, and Gildon had eight points and in 16 minutes during the 91-68 second-round win over Indiana.

“Lydia, Oti, and Morgan have really given us a lift when we needed it,” Graves said. “We've had a short bench all year, so we've had to rely on them.”

Chavez, who couldn’t walk after the USC game and was getting around the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on a scooter, has done her best to stay patient while awaiting her chance to play in the Big Dance.

During the two NCAA Tournament games at Matthew Night Arena she was engaged with her teammates during timeouts and cheering them on from the bench.

“Initially it’s frustrating,” she said. “but then you have to find a way to like channel your emotions and don’t let it turn to frustration because that takes away from the team.”

Backing the Pac

Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose fifth-seeded team pulled a mild upset at No. 4 Miami in the second round, isn’t surprised that the Sun Devils are one of five Pac-12 teams in the Sweet 16.

“A lot of our conference coaches have felt, because we play tough schedules in the preseason, top to bottom, we have been the most dominant conference in the country all year long,” Turner Thorne said. “I think that's just playing out right now. I'm not surprised at all. Super happy for our conference. It's going to be fun to see how everything plays out, how well our five Sweet 16 teams do the rest of the way.”

Arizona State plays top-seeded Mississippi State in the first Portland Regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Moda Center.

No. 2 Oregon (Portland Regional) and No. 2 Stanford (Chicago Regional) are the only higher seeds from the Pac-12 in their respective regional semifinal matchups against No. 6 South Dakota State and No. 11 Missouri State, respectively.

No. 4 Oregon State plays No. 1 Louisville and No. 6 UCLA plays No. 2 UConn in the Albany Regional.

“What I really like is I know genuinely we all care about each other's programs, and we're pulling for each other,” Graves said. “The first text I got after we won our last game was from (Stanford) coach (Tara) VanDerveer. She's always championing the league. That always means a lot.”

Viva, Las Vegas super regional?

The Ducks will obviously have the home-crowd advantage at the Portland Regional. Same for UConn in Albany, N.Y., Notre Dame in Chicago and South Carolina in Greensboro, N.C.

ESPN analyst Debbie Antonelli has pitched the idea of having all four NCAA Tournament regionals in Las Vegas so everyone is competing on a neutral court.

“I love the idea. I absolutely love the idea,” Turner Thorne. “I've been doing this 30 years in Division I college coaching. We keep moving backwards. We can't play on neutral sites, we're not filling the stands. I don't know. I'll go on record, I don't care, I'm old, doesn't matter. …

“I mean, that would sell out. That would be unbelievable. The turnout, it's just kind of to me a no-brainer. Now that legislation has changed in terms of the NCAA bylaws with gambling. I really hope that we're looking at it because I think it would be unbelievable for our game and for the NCAA tournament.”

Graves is happy with the current format, which has rewarded the Ducks with a chance to punch their ticket to the Final Four without leaving the state.

“Not everybody supports women's basketball, but you have two of the best fan bases in the country right here in Oregon — Oregon and Oregon State,” Graves said. “I think we were eighth in attendance and Oregon State is around 12th. This is the good spot to put it. We're going to put hopefully 11, 12, 13 thousand people or more in here. I actually like that.”

Notable

The Ducks are 34-34 all-time against Arizona State, 1-3 against Mississippi State and 1-2 against South Dakota State. Oregon is 4-0 against the other Portland Regional teams this season after sweeping the regular-season series from the Sun Devils, beating the Bulldogs in Eugene and the Jackrabbits in Brookings, S.D. … Oregon is 13-14 all-time in NCAA Tournament games but 8-2 under Graves over the last three seasons. … South Dakota State is the only Division I athletic department to sends its football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball programs into postseason play in each of the last seven years.

Quotable

South Dakota State clinched its Sweet 16 spot with a win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome before making the cross-country trek to Portland.

“It's been a whirlwind couple of days (traveling) from one side of the country to the other," Jackrabbits coach Aaron Johnston said. "With a quick laundry stop.”