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Oregon State Women’s Basketball: 2020 Championship Contenders?

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How talented will the Beavers be next season?

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Albany Regional-Oregon State vs Louisville Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the Beavers season over it’s time to look forward to next season. The 2019 season saw Oregon State’s Women’s basketball team advance to the Sweet 16 before losing to Louisville 61-44. While the loss stings and getting knocked out by Louisville for the 2nd year in a row is especially gut-wrenching; the Beavers have a lot to celebrate. They just capped off the most successful five-year run in program history.

They overcame injuries to Kat Tudor and Andrea Aquino and managed to win some gritty games at the end of the season even as their three-point shot abandoned them. Now that the season is over what does the 2020 season hold in store?


DEPARTURES:

ADDITIONS:


The Beavers should return over 80% of their scoring next season to a program that has gotten familiar with winning. They’ve advanced to (at least) the Sweet 16 four years in a row and will have plenty of seniors on the roster in 2020. Seriously just look at the teams win totals and postseason finishes over the last five seasons!

  • 2019: 26-8 (Sweet 16)
  • 2018: 26-8 (Elite 8)
  • 2017: 31-5 (Sweet 16)
  • 2016: 32-5 (Final Four)
  • 2015: 27-5 (Round of 32)

While the Beavers will probably be ranked in the top 10-to-15 range to start next season I believe they have the potential to be a serious championship contender.

One of the main problems Oregon State had in 2019 is a lack of a reliable post-scorer. Joanna Grymek was a reliable shot-blocker and made great strides during her time in Corvallis, but standing at 6-foot-8 she gave up some speed on the other end and averaged just under 20 minutes a game for the Beavs. Insert Kennedy Brown (6’6), Taylor Jones (6’3) and hopefully a fully healthy Andrea Aquino (6’9). Not to mention another year of improvement for Maddie Washington (6’1) and Patricia Morris (6’7).

Most importantly, Oregon State will return four extremely talented seniors: Mikayla Pivec, Maddie Washington, Kat Tudor and Janessa Thropay. Those seniors combined with the collective talent around them and two high-scoring point guards (Destiny Slocum and Aleah Goodman) should be a force to be reckoned with.

There’s still questions to be answered like:

  • Will Kat Tudor and Andrea Aqiuno be able to return from major injuries?
  • How will the two highly touted incoming freshman fit in?
  • Who starts and how will minutes be allocated?
  • Will the Beavers hot-shooting ways re-emerge or will they need to find new ways to score?
  • Who among the post-players will become a reliable scorer/playmaker?
  • Scott Rueck is becoming a hot commodity for coaching searches. Would he contemplate taking another coaching job?

Despite the questions surrounding the team, I think they’ll be able to come together and I don’t think Scott Rueck will take a different head coaching job. We won’t find the answers to many of these questions until next season, but here’s my way-too-early guess at the starting lineup for 2020:

Starting Lineup:

  • Destiny Slocum
  • Mikayla Pivec
  • Kat Tudor
  • Taya Corosdale
  • Kennedy Brown

Key Subs:

  • Aleah Goodman
  • Maddie Washington
  • Taylor Jones
  • Janessa Thropay
  • Andrea Aquino (health-permitting)
  • Jasmine Simmons
  • Patricia Morris

Just looking at the roster should strike fear into Oregon State’s opponents. So many talented basketball players and all of them could start and make positive contributions. The women’s Final Four teams will compete tonight and there’s some interesting similarities between them. UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor all have seven McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster. Oregon has just one (Sabrina Ionescu), but she is the biggest star left in the tournament. Obviously it takes a team that is absolutely loaded with talent to compete for a National Championship.

How many McDonald’s All-Americans will Oregon State roster next season? Two. Kennedy Brown will join Destiny Slocum as former McDonald’s All-Americans for the Beavers. Brown will become the first player in Oregon State history to earn McDonald’s All-America honors as a commit. While the Beavers are talented there’s still a bit of a recruiting gap between the Beavers and the perennial championship contenders in women’s basketball, but a veteran-laden team can make up for that.

In my opinion, Mikayla Pivec is Oregon State’s unselfish superstar and leader. She doesn’t mind defending, rebounding, facilitating, diving for loose balls and scoring (almost as a last resort). She can do it all and will not be satisfied with “just another Sweet Sixteen” run to cap off her collegiate-career. If Oregon State can stay healthy they’ll be the deepest and most talented team Coach Rueck has ever coached.

Yes, the Pac-12 will be extremely tough again (perhaps the toughest it’s ever been). Yes, the perennial championship contenders will still be there (UConn, Baylor, Notre Dame, Stanford, Louisville, South Carolina etc etc). But if I was a betting man I’d put my money on Oregon State putting together a long postseason run and if the ball bounces their way anything can happen. Look out Beaver Nation, basketball season is just seven months away!