The NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Committee released the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket on Monday night and as expected, Oregon State (29-4) received a #2 seed in the Stockton Region, where they’ll match-up against Big West Conference Tournament Champions, Long Beach State (23-10). The tournament draw could be viewed as favorable for the Beavers, as Oregon State is on the opposite side of the bracket from four-time defending National Champions, UCONN (32-0), who infamously ended last season’s surprise tournament run in the Final Four.
However, the path ahead for head coach Scott Rueck and company could still hold it’s fair share of challenges, that starts with Long Beach State and will continue with a Second Round meeting against one of two severely underrated teams in either #7 Creighton (23-7) or #10 Toledo (25-8). If the Beavers advance to the Sweet Sixteen after that, the potential for a showdown with #3 Florida State (25-6), an outfit who nearly knocked off #1 overall seed UCONN (32-0) earlier this season, is a probable and expected scenario, as well.
The biggest competition for the Beavers from their region will come from #1 seed South Carolina (27-4), who has already been selected by three of ESPN’s women’s college basketball experts (Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel) to represent the region in the Final Four. However, the Gamecocks will have to navigate the tournament center Alaina Coates, a four-time All-SEC selection, who will likely remain out of the big dance with an ankle injury.
How Did Long Beach State Get Here?
Long Beach State knocked off UC-Santa Barbara (16-16) in the Big West Conference Tournament Championship Game on Saturday (3/11), to secure the league’s automatic bid to the field of 64. The 49ers were the #2 seed heading into the conference tournament, behind UC-Davis (23-7), after finishing the regular season with a 12-4 mark in the conference.
Long Beach State has one win this season against the tournament field, which came back on December 19th, when the 49ers knocked off then-undefeated #22 South Florida, in a surprise 73-68 upset. In a unique turn of events, the Bulls are the #11 seed in the Stockton bracket, along with Oregon State and Long Beach State.
A return to the big dance for Long Beach State in 2017 is the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for the program since 1992, meaning head coach Jody Wynn could already consider this season an overwhelming success for her program. However, one more legendary upset will likely be on the 49ers’ mind when they storm into Corvallis on Friday afternoon in the “First Round” game.
Long Beach State is not a team to be overlooked by any stretch of the imagination, as the 49ers have that eye-catching win over South Florida on their resume and earlier this season, they also played USC to a tight-game on the road in Los Angeles. The 49ers also enter the NCAA Tournament with momentum on their side as well, having won 6 of their last 7 games, including a Big West Conference Tournament Championship.
How Does Oregon State Win?
Style-wise, the 49ers don’t do anything overly complex (which sometimes helps them against more formidable opponents) but it’s doubtful to think that they’ll have enough firepower on their roster to knock off a potential “Final Four” team like Oregon State. However, you have to take into consideration that the Beavers aren’t exactly playing their best basketball of the season, coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game to Stanford, while Long Beach State enters this contest chalk full of momentum. You never know what may happen.
If Oregon State doesn’t allow Long Beach State to hang around in this one and squashes their confidence from the get-go, the Beavers should have an easy “First Round” win to bounce-back from a bitter end to the Pac-12 Tournament. Part of that game-plan will involve slowing down Long Beach State’s three-headed attack of seniors Raven Benton (11.4 PPG), Anna Kim (10.3 PPG) and Madison Montgomery (10.0 PPG), who combine account for almost half of Long Beach State’s scoring. Another part of Oregon State’s focus should be on controlling the basketball, as the 49ers have one of the country’s best defenses, that force opponents into 20 turnovers on average per night. However, if the Beavers play their game from the get-go, a methodical team like the 49ers shouldn’t have enough in the tank to give Oregon State, a run for their money.
This Oregon State group looks focused to make it back to the Final Four and the news of South Carolina forward Alaina Coates missing the big dance, may be the crack in the armor they needed to start believing it’s a possibility. While I don’t think their opening round match-up against Long Beach State will be their prettiest game, I do think the Beavers will not allow themselves to have a misstep and they’ll take care of business from the on-set.
Final Score: Oregon State 69, Long Beach State 57.