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Pac-12 Preview: A new era of Oregon dominance officially begins in 2018-19

After winning regular season and tournament titles last season, the Oregon Ducks are the team to beat in the relentless and unforgiving Pac-12.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Oregon vs Stanford
The Oregon Ducks have a freshly-painted target on their backs this season as they seek a repeat Pac-12 title and to improve upon last year’s Elite Eight performance.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time ever, the Pac-12 coaches selected the University of Oregon to top the Pac-12 in the 2018-19 preseason poll, just months after the Ducks took both regular season and tournament titles. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth sailing. The Pac-12 is still stacked, with traditional powers Stanford, UCLA and in-state rival Oregon State threatening to disrupt Oregon’s plans for a repeat.

Here’s what to look for this season in the Pac-12:

Teams in the Pac-12 Conference

Here are the teams in the Pac-12, listed with their records, according to the 2017-18 standings:

  • Oregon Ducks, 33-5 (16-2)
  • Stanford Cardinal, 24-11 (14-3)
  • UCLA Bruins, 27-8 (14-4)
  • Oregon State Beavers, 26-8 (14-4)
  • California Golden Bears, 21-11 (11-7)
  • Arizona State Sun Devils, 22-13 (10-8)
  • USC Trojans, 20-11 (9-9)
  • Utah Utes, 18-14 (8-10)
  • Colorado Buffaloes, 15-16 (5-13)
  • Washington State Cougars, 10-20 (3-14)
  • Arizona Wildcats, 6-24 (2-16)
  • Washington Huskies, 7-23 (1-17)

Biggest storylines heading into the season

Sabrina Ionescu is the story of the Pac-12. She’s the record-breaking talent who hit the scene just as Washington’s Kelsey Plum was putting a record-breaking bow on her own career. As a sophomore last season, the Oregon point guard broke the women’s career triple-double record and led her team to the Elite Eight, then finished out by winning the Nancy Lieberman Award for best Division I women’s point guard.

This season, Ionescu is expected to pick up right where she left off, as is the rest of the talented Oregon team that is returning four starters. However, there’s well-founded speculation that this season could be Ionescu’s last, as her age would allow her to bypass her fourth year of NCAA eligibility and enter the WNBA Draft in 2019. Wherever that conversation goes this season, though, Ionescu still has unfinished business at Oregon, and for that reason she’ll be one to watch as the team goes for a national championship.

But two teams in particular want to give Ionescu and Oregon a lot of trouble. Although Oregon easily took the top spot in the preseason conference poll, Stanford slid into the second position just three points above Oregon State, which took the three regular-season titles between Oregon’s 2017-18 triumph and Stanford’s last regular-season title win in the 2013-14 season.

While Stanford is an NCAA Tournament mainstay, making it in for the past 31 years, their last national championship was all the way back in 1992. The 2017-18 Cardinal team was eliminated by Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen, in blowout fashion, but will return 12 players to the team that finished just a game-and-a-half behind of the Ducks in the Pac-12. That said, Oregon State returns four starters to a squad that did one better: making it to the Elite Eight (before also losing to Louisville). However the Pac-12 happens to shake out, all three of these teams should be serious contenders come March.

Game information

Season openers:

Oregon Ducks vs. Syracuse Orange

Oregon’s true first game is a Nov. 6 exhibition against Alaska–Fairbanks (NCAA Div. II).

When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

How to listen: Oregon IMG Sports Network

Stanford Cardinal vs. UC Davis Aggies

Stanford’s true first game is a Nov. 1 exhibition against Vanguard (NAIA).

When: Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA

How to watch: Stanford live stream

Oregon State Beavers vs. Cal Poly Mustangs

Oregon State’s true first game is a Nov. 3 exhibition against Northwest Nazarene (NCAA Div. II).

When: Friday, Nov. 9 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR

How to listen: Oregon State Beaver Sports Network

UCLA Bruins at Loyola Marymount Lions

UCLA’s true first game is a Nov. 3 exhibition against Westmont (NAIA).

When: Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles

How to listen: UCLA Sports Network from IMG

Notable contests:

Oregon Ducks vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

When: Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

How to watch: ESPN2

Why to watch: Mississippi State was this close to winning the national championship last season. With most of last year’s Elite Eight Oregon starters returning for the 2018-19 season, this will be the Ducks’ first major test to see if a return trip to the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament is in the cards.

Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon Ducks

When: Sunday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA

How to watch: ESPN2

Why to watch: This matchup is truly a battle of the old and the new, the storied and the up-and-comers. Although Stanford owns the 54-10 overall series lead, Oregon managed to earn a season series split between the teams last year, in the best way: by beating the Cardinal in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game in a 77-57 rout. Oregon was nationally ranked above Stanford in both games (making Stanford’s regular-season win technically an upset), but that statement win for the Ducks not only solidified their status as double Pac-12 champions, it also makes their next meeting with the Cardinal — like last season, their only meeting in the regular season — all the more intriguing.

Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers

When: Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

How to watch: Pac-12 Network

Why to watch: Not only is this in-state rivalry not one to miss in recent years, but it should also be a top-three (if not top-two) matchup in the conference, with bragging rights, conference tournament implications and national ranking shakeups written all over it. The best part? These teams will face off again just three days later in Corvallis, OR — same time, but on ESPN2.

Click here to visit the Pac-12 website.