March 24, 2024 

Bigger challenges lie ahead for Pac-12 NCAA Tournament teams

In a very chalky weekend so far, six of the seven Pac-12 entrants move on to the second round Sunday and Monday.

The last hurrahs for the teams almost formerly known as members of the Pac-12 Conference began this weekend with the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

And thus far, the rough-and-tumble of the Pac-12 schedule has served its teams well.

The conference is 7-1 through the end of the first round, with the only elimination coming with Arizona’s loss to Syracuse. The Wildcats still won their play-in game on Thursday night, though.

Six of the seven Pac-12 entrants are moving on to the second round, which takes place on Sunday and Monday. Let’s take a look at what’s next for all of the remaining teams, and for the Wildcats, whose season ended Saturday.

2 Stanford (29-5) vs. 7 Iowa State (21-11) at Maples Pavilion

First-round results: Stanford defeated Norfolk State, 79-50, and Iowa State beat Maryland, 93-86

This matchup, taking place on Sunday at 7 p.m. PST, is going to be one of the most interesting of the second round. ISU’s Audi Crooks, who put up 40 points on 18 of 20 shooting on Friday against Maryland, will go up against the Cardinal’s All-American post tandem of Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen. On paper, Brink and Iriafen should be able to limit Crooks, but we can’t forget about the Cyclones’ ability to shoot the 3. Iowa State ranks ninth nationally in 3-point percentage (37.6) and 19th in 3-pointers made, at 8.5 per game. The Cardinals have surrendered 21 3-pointers in the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford was eliminated in this round last year, so there are bound to be nerves for the home team as they look to win and move onto Portland for the Sweet 16.

3 Oregon State (25-7) vs. 6 Nebraska (23-11) at Gil Coliseum

First-round results: Oregon State defeated Eastern Washington 73-51, and Nebraska beat Texas A&M 61-59

The Beavers will take on the Huskers on Sunday at 1 p.m. PST, and the biggest concern for the Beavers is the health of star center Raegan Beers. She left Oregon’s first-round game against Eastern Washington with an ankle injury on Friday and did not return. Of course, the Beavers didn’t need her to; they had the game in hand. But Beers, who was reportedly in sandals after the game with no tape on her ankle, had 19 points and nine rebounds at the time she left Friday’s game, and she will be key to face off against Nebraska post Alexis Markowski. Against the Huskers, who have nine wins in their last 11 games, the Beavers will want to control the tempo and score more consistently than they did in the opening game. In that match, they were uncomfortably down by eight points at the end of the first quarter. An additional detail to make this game interesting is Huskers’ sharpshooter Jaz Shelley, who will be a familiar face for the Beavers. Shelley began her collegiate career at Oregon before transferring in 2021.

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

5 Colorado (23-9) vs. 4 Kansas State (26-7) at Bramlage Coliseum

First-round results: Colorado defeated Drake 86-72; Kansas State beat Portland 78-65

What will be the key for the Buffaloes to win and advance to their second straight Sweet 16? According to head coach J.R. Payne: rebounding. Playing on the Wildcats home floor (on Sunday at 1 p.m. CST) and coming away with the win will be a big task for Colorado. Center Aaronette Vonleh and guard Jaylyn Sherrod — who combined for 34 points in the first round win over Drake — will be crucial to the game on Sunday. Now, back to the rebounding. Colorado averages 37.4 rebounds per game. Kansas State, led by senior center Ayoka Lee, averages 38.6. Owning the boards will be the key to owning this game. The matchup with Vonleh inside will be the one to watch; meanwhile, Sherrod will be the quickest guard that the Wildcats have faced this season.

1 USC (27-5) vs. 8 Kansas (20-12) at the Galen Center

First-round results: USC Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 87-55, and Kansas beat Michigan 81-72

The Trojans got 23 points each from freshman JuJu Watkins and fifth-year senior McKenzie Forbes to win the program’s first NCAA Tournament game since 2006. The Kansas side needed overtime to reach the second round with a win over No. 9 Michigan. Ultimately, they eked out the win and reached the second round for just the second time since 2013. Kansas, who won the WNIT last season and have four fifth-year seniors on the roster, was down by 10 with six minutes remaining. Then the forced overtime and came away with the win. Guard Zakiyah Franklin finished the game with 22 points, including the 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime. When the teams face off on Monday at 7 p.m. PST, the Jayhawks will want to slow the Trojans down considerably, a style that could stifle USC. But this postseason for USC has thus far proved that they are much more than just Watkins. Forbes, for example, has scored 49 points in her last two games. Trojans will need another group effort to keep moving forward.

Get 24/7 soccer coverage with The Equalizer

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The Next receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

2 UCLA (26-6) vs. Creighton (26-5) at Pauley Pavilion

First-round results: UCLA defeated California Baptist University 84-55; Creighton beat the University of Nevada Las Vegas 87-73

The two teams face play each other on Monday at 5:30 p.m. PST. The biggest question that will face the Bruins heading into the second round will be whether Lauren Betts, the outstanding sophomore post, will be able to play. Betts sat out Saturday’s first round matchup against Cal Baptist with a right foot injury because she, and the Bruins, could afford to. But her readiness will be key for a second-round game against a Creighton squad that hit an eye-popping 15 3-pointers to earn a first-round win over UNLV. Senior guard Lauren Jensen led the way for Creighton with 25 points, 7 rebounds, and a 5-for-7 effort from beyond the 3-point arc. If UCLA’s offensive priority is getting Betts back, their defensive priority will be on the perimeter, where the Bruins are in a good spot with guards Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice.

5 Utah (23-10) vs. 4 Gonzaga (31-3) at McCarthey Athletic Center

First-round results: Utah defeated South Dakota State, 68-54; Gonzaga beat UC Irvine 75-56

The Utah Utes return to the second round for the third straight season after dispatching of a short-handed South Dakota squad and will face the Zags on their home floor. Utah rode their two most tournament-tested players — Alissa Pili and Kennady McQueen — to the win, with 26 and 17 points respectively. Gonzaga, looking to make their first Sweet 16 since 2015, sent a scare into the home crowd with a slow start against UC Irvine. The Zags put up just 10 first-quarter points and fell behind until the clock showed 6:10 to go in the first half, when they recaptured the lead. Over the final three quarters, the Zags outscored Irvine 65-39. Looking ahead, the interior matchup between Pili and Zags’ star forward Yvonne Ejim — who finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds — will be one to watch. Gonzaga, it should be noted, went 3-1 against Pac-12 teams this season. The squads face off on Monday night at 5:30 p.m. PST.

11 Arizona (18-16) eliminated by Syracuse (24-7), 74-69

The Wildcats’ won their play-in game and had a five-point lead on the Orange with 3:15 to go. However, Syracuse star Dyashia Fair did what All-Americans do, and sealed the win. Arizona both survived and thrived this season, with injuries, the unexpected mid-season and late-season exits of their two most productive players, and a seven-player lineup through the stretch of the season. Fifth-year seniors Helena Pueyo and Esmery Martinez were warriors for head coach Adia Barnes. Arizona always belonged in this tournament. With the major minutes and contributions of freshmen Skylar Jones, Jada Williams and Breya Cunningham the Wildcats are sure to make noise next season in the Big 12.

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as and She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.