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Alex Shoemaker

March Madness: Welcome Oregon women’s basketball to the Big Dance

March Madness

March Madness

SEATTLE – Any doubts about Oregon women’s basketball’s inclusion to the NCAA Tournament were thoroughly snuffed out Friday in Key Arena.

Sophomore guard Maite Cazorla and freshman Ruthy Hebard contested Kelsey Plum’s shot at the buzzer, hanging on for a 70-69 victory over rival Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.

Plum, the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 34 points. But it wasn’t enough as the No. 3 seed Huskies (27-5, 15-3 conference) fell in front a largely friendly crowd of nearly 10,000.

The Ducks, which moved to 20-13, 8-10, on the season Saturday with a loss to perennial power Stanford in the semifinals, did enough to punch their proverbial tickets by up ending border rival Washington.

In their previous meeting of the season, a 99-77 shellacking at Matt Knight Arena on Dec. 30, gave little hope of an Oregon bounce back.

But bounce it did, right out of the bubble and into solid tournament placement.

The Ducks résumé is finito. Written, spell checked – signed, sealed and delivered. Now the waiting begins.

While the Oregon men’s basketball team carries its No. 1 seed into the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, the women have a week off to wait for Selection Sunday.

There’s no doubt both Ducks teams will be dancing. The only question is will there be any ill will with seeding for the Big Dance.

It’s safe to assume the women, which haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2005, will wind up somewhere in the 6-8 range.

But hey, with a friendly committee it wouldn’t be outlandish to see the Ducks as high as a five. And an unfavorable one could drop them as low as a nine or even a double digit.

Their RPI is No. 34, which doesn’t do their body of work justice. But really, when does a computer ranking?

That’s the fun of March Madness, right?

As for the men, their fate is a little more certain.

Oregon men's basketball

Oregon men’s basketball

Their No. 5 ranking would lead to believe they’re sitting on the cusp of back to back No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament – Oregon reached the elite eight last year as the West’s top seed.

Should it win out, a one would almost be certain. That is unless the selection committee buys into the all powerful, benevolent RPI.

Yes, according to ESPN, Oregon is only No. 14 in the latest RPI rankings. That’s one spot behind UCLA, the highest ranked team, which just so happens to be ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.

Even more surprisingly, Arizona, who seems to be in the top 10 in every human poll/power ranking, is only No. 23 in the RPI.

Riddle me that, please…

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Ducks as the No. 2 seed from the west. A trip to Sacramento wouldn’t be the worst thing for a Pacific Northwest squad.

And, in my very humble opinion, Gonzaga is the weakest of those No. 1 seeds.

NCAA Tournament

NCAA Tournament

I’ll take it. Oh yeah, I’ll take an underdog role.

How weird is that, really, that a No. 2 seed is considered a slight to Oregon basketball.

Just five years ago, as an up and coming Dana Altman prepared to take over a mediocre Ducks program, the idea of back to back tournament appearances would have been enough for Phil Knight to donate another *insert ridiculous amount of money* check to the program.

Now, and maybe it’s just how bad Oregon football has been the past two years, but fans are already spoiled, entitled hoops fans.

This column certainly rambled and got away from my original message of “wow – just check out what these Lady Ducks are doing.”

Both Oregon teams haven’t gone dancing the same March in 17 years. Both teams are having unprecedented years for different reasons.

Make no mistake, this could end up being the best March Madness in Oregon history. So let’s make sure we appreciate it for what it really is.

The move to, dare I say, becoming a basketball school?

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