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WBB: Will the historic start lead to a historic finish?

A 12-0 start has the Beavers ready for conference play.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 16 Div I Women’s Championship - First Round - Oregon State v Western Kentucky Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nine months ago immediately after the 2019 WBB season ended, I wrote about how 2020 was the Beavers year. They were set up to have an extremely talented roster and more importantly veteran leadership to help carry them through to the next level. I thought they had a VERY REAL chance to play for a championship despite a number of extremely talented teams at the top (in the Pac-12 specifically). After a perfect 12-0 start to the season and on the heels of conference play, this women’s basketball team has even exceeded my lofty pre-season expectations.

Despite not having healthy post players Andrea Aquino (6’9) and Jelena Mitrovic (6’9); true freshman Taylor Jones and Kennedy Brown have stepped up in a HUGE way. It’s not often that freshman are immediately able to make the jump to a whole different level of competition, but both players have been phenomenal. Kennedy Brown is playing 27 minutes a night and averaging 7.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG. Taylor Jones (the slightly less-heralded high school recruit) is playing just over 20 minutes a game and averaging 14.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 2 blocks per game.

When talking about the Oregon State Beavers, everyone mentions their dynamic guards in Destiny Slocum and Mikayla Pivec (widely considered the leaders of this team). They also talk about the sharp-shooters in Aleah Goodman and Kat Tudor. The only question mark headed into the season was the Beavers post-presence and it seems like that question has been answered. The Beavers currently have their highest ranking in school history at #3 in the nation and they are dominating on the boards, ranking 6th nationally at 45.6 rebounds per game.

Do I still have concerns? Sure. Depth could become an issue. Only six players are averaging more than 20 minutes a game. The big three (Pivec, Slocum & Goodman) are all averaging around 30 minutes a game and that number will bump up in a big way during Pac-12 play.

Currently the Beavers led the Pac-12 in three-point percentage 37.5% and they are holding opponents to 25.5% from downtown (which seems unsustainable). The Beavs also rank 7th nationally in field-goal percentage defense per game at 32.1%. Can all of that continue?

After the Beavers final non-conference game, beating Cal State Bakersfield 69-50 on Sunday. Coach Scott Rueck appropriately stated that it was time for “the gauntlet of the Pac-12 season”. As amazing as the 12-0 start has been; it’s really just been a competitive tune-up for conference play and the postseason. That’s where Oregon State’s true freshman and the entire team will be tested.

These are the nine undefeated teams remaining:

  • Texas Tech
  • Kansas
  • NC State
  • Florida State
  • UConn
  • Colorado
  • UCLA
  • Arizona
  • Oregon State

Four of those teams are from the Pac-12 and that doesn’t include #2 ranked Oregon and #5 ranked Stanford. Read that sentence again. HALF of the Pac-12 is undefeated or have just one-loss and is ranked in the top-five. That’s just insanity.

In order to have a good chance at getting to the final four the Beavers need to earn a one or two seed once the NCAA bracket is revealed. Looking at past brackets that means they can probably only lose 4 or 5 games in conference play. With 18 games left on the schedule that is no easy task. Especially considering the Beavs play: Oregon twice, Stanford twice, Arizona twice, Colorado twice and have a road game at UCLA.

Overall the Beavers have obviously put themselves in a good spot. They have arguably the top resume in the nation at this point in the season and many pundits have them as a one-seed in their early brackets. Conference play is going to be exciting and an awesome chance for the team to cut their teeth; but I’ll also be watching the rest of the college basketball landscape. If the committee gives the Beavs a top-seed (at least a two-seed), I think they’ll play for a National Championship. Of course injuries, shooting slumps and unlucky bounces make it impossible to forecast these things, but UConn, Baylor, South Carolina, Louisville, Oregon and the other elite teams better watch out for the Beavers!