Women’s Basketball Gears up for Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas

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University of Utah Utes Women’s Basketball Team Guard Bryanna Maxwell (11) looks to pass the ball during an NCAA Basketball match vs. the South Dakota Coyotes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah women’s basketball team (13-16, 6-12 Pac-12) turns their sights to the Pac-12 tournament this weekend in Las Vegas.

The Utes are now on a two-game losing streak and have lost five out of the last six overall. They will look to grab some wins in this conference tournament to strengthen their resume for any potential NCAA tournament bid, but they’ll have to do some convincing in order to make that happen.

As the tournament’s No. 8 seed, they will be playing in the first round against Washington (13-16, 5-13 Pac-12). The Huskies are on a two-game losing streak of their own, and they will be looking to bounce back this weekend. The Utes beat Washington on the road in Seattle earlier this season, 74-65. They are 11-11 against them all-time. They have won against the Huskies five out of the last six times, with the only loss coming in last year’s Pac-12 Tournament. The Huskies upset the Utes in the first round, 64-54.

In order for the Utes to prevent that from happening again, they will need to play to their strengths and keep their cool. Slow starts and empty first quarters have plagued the Utes all season, and that isn’t a recipe for success in the Pac-12. As long as they can get off to a good start and then play their style the rest of the game, they should be okay. The Utes are the better team — they’ll just have to show it. The game is scheduled for Thursday, March 5 at 3 p.m. at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

If they do manage to grab the win in the first round, they will face the tournament’s No. 1 seed and the No. 3 team in the nation, the Oregon Ducks (28-2, 17-1 Pac-12). They are led by the only player in NCAA Division I history, men’s or women’s, to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists over a collegiate career, Sabrina Ionescu. She is also the NCAA all-time leader in triple doubles and the Pac-12 all-time assist leader. Utah will have their hands full trying to contain the best player in the nation.

Oregon is also a well rounded team with great players at every position. They defend, hit 3s, pass and rebound extremely well. There’s a reason the Ducks are ranked as a Top 3 team nationwide and are the pride of the Pac-12. Utah will have a tall task in the second round if they do end up making it past Washington. Utah has not beaten Oregon since 2015 and lost to them twice this season, both in dominating fashion from the Ducks. That game would be on Friday at 3 p.m.

If they do somehow manage to upset Oregon, they would likely play No. 13 Arizona (23-6, 12-6 Pac-12), the Pac-12’s No. 4 seed. After that, they would probably face either No. 8 UCLA (25-4, 14-4 Pac-12) or No. 7 Stanford (25-5, 14-4 Pac-12) in the championship game.

The Utes will need a strong showing this weekend to get into the NCAA tournament. A loss against Washington would almost surely take them out of the running, where a win and then a strong performance against Oregon would go a long way. An upset win over the Ducks would be huge for their tournament odds. 

Overall, the Utes have been up and down the whole season. They have struggled with inconsistency and slow starts at multiple points. If they can correct some issues, they will have a chance to do something special this tournament season.

 

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