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NCAAW Elite Eight Preview (Day 1): Oregon playing for first Final Four appearance among teams seeking return trips

As Louisville, UConn and Mississippi State look to return to familiar territory, the Ducks have a chance to make history.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Portland Regional-Oregon vs South Dakota State
Is this the year for the Ducks? Satou Sabally (front left) and Sabrina Ionescu (front right) look to lead Oregon to its first-ever Final Four on Sunday.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Both of today’s Elite Eight games are rematches from non-conference play. In their first iterations, both were won by the team seen as the underdog at the time.

At this stage in the tournament, it’s hard to call any of these teams underdogs.

Although both Louisville and Oregon beat today’s opponents at home in their first meetings, they’ve each grown into their natural advantages against UConn and Mississippi State, respectively. All four teams were standouts in their respective conferences this season, which is all but a requirement at this point in the postseason.

Another thing these matchups have in common: The Cardinals and Ducks won at least a share of their regular-season conference championships before falling in their conference tournament title games. Meanwhile, the Huskies and Bulldogs both won their regular-season and tournament titles. (Also, the obvious birds vs. dogs parallels, perhaps the most important connection.)

Theoretically, neutral-site matchups should make things this time around more … well, neutral. But with Oregon playing two hours from campus and UConn back in familiar Albany, who’s to say how much “home-court advantage” these teams could take with them?

NCAAW Tournament — Elite Eight (Day 1)

No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 2 UConn Huskies

When: Sunday, March 31, at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY

How to watch: ESPN

Keys to the matchup: The discussions about whether UConn has a lengthy tournament run in them will continue as long as they’re in the tournament. But just because the Huskies have struggled compared to their counterparts doesn’t mean Louisville can rest easy. With Napheesa Collier leading the way and Crystal Dangerfield’s late-game action helping the Huskies get past UCLA on Friday, UConn still has what it takes to make the next stage. But then, so does Louisville, whose stars have remained consistent throughout the tournament in its relatively comfortable wins. Only one team can make a return trip to the Final Four — the question is, who’s more ready for the challenge?

No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks

When: Sunday, March 31, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

How to watch: ESPN

Keys to the matchup: The Dec. 18 meeting between these teams was an offensive slugfest, as both the Bulldogs and the Ducks shot around 50 percent en route to the 82-74 Oregon win. For the Ducks, one key to the win was shutting down Teaira McCowan, who was held under 10 points for the first of just two times all season. But with McCowan averaging just under 25 points per game in this year’s tournament, it will be difficult to slow her roll so abruptly for a second time. With seven players across both teams scoring in double figures last time around, expect another high-scoring game — especially if McCowan gets on the board as often as she’s used to.

NCAAW Tournament game information

Elite Eight

When: Sunday, March 31; Monday, April 1 (click for times)

Where: Albany, NY; Chicago, IL; Greensboro, NC; Portland, OR

How to watch: ESPN, ESPN2, WatchESPN

Final Four

When: Friday, April 5, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

How to watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN

National Championship

When: Sunday, April 7, at 6 p.m. ET

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN

More ways to watch the games

Want to watch in person? Elite Eight and Final Four tickets can be found on the websites of the hosting arenas, or here.