Oregon made its first women’s college basketball Final Four in school history last season, riding a dynamic team led by Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally all the way to Tampa.
The Ducks look to be poised to make the Final Four again this season, bringing back an impressive roster.
But who is going to be this year’s Oregon? Will we see a school make their first ever Final Four in 2020? Will there be a squad in New Orleans that surprises us?
We took a look at a few candidates.
The Bruins made the Elite Eight for just the second time in school history in 2018, and followed that up with their fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance last year. Head coach Cori Close could be building something special at UCLA, and the Bruins could be poised for a step forward this year.
UCLA is off to a 2-0 start this season and ranked No. 11 in the first AP poll of the regular season. The Bruins brought back three starters from last year’s squad, including All-Pac-12 First Team selection Michaela Onyenwere, who led UCLA in scoring last season with 18.3 points per game. All-Pac-12 freshman Lindsey Corsaro also returns, as does the Pac-12’s best free throw shooter, Japreece Dean (92.2 percent from the charity stripe last season).
While the Bruins lost two starters, they reloaded in recruiting. UCLA brought in two McDonald’s All-Americans in Jaden Owens and Charisma Osborne, and two other highly touted prospects in Brynn Masikewich and Camryn Brown.
Natalie Chou, a redshirt junior transfer from Baylor, is also eligible this season. As a freshman, she led the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage with 42.3.
The Pac-12 will be tough this season with both Oregon and Stanford having talented squads. But UCLA should be in the mix to compete for the conference crown and a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Seminoles have won at least one game in the NCAA tournament every year since 2013. In 2015 and 2017, they advanced to the Elite Eight, but ran up against South Carolina and came short of reaching their first Final Four.
This year could be different for Sue Semrau’s side as the ACC looks wide open. With Notre Dame losing five starters and Louisville losing Asia Durr, Florida State has an opportunity to go after the ACC crown and get a favorable seed come tournament time.
It also helps that the Seminoles return a talented roster, on that is off to a 2-0 start and was ranked No. 12 in the first AP poll of the regular season. Leading the team is Kiah Gillespie, a 6-foot-2 redshirt senior who was tabbed as a preseason All-American and named to the McClain Award watchlist. All-ACC freshman Valencia Myers is also back, as is preseason All-ACC selection Nicki Ekhomu. The Seminoles also added two McDonald’s All-Americans in River Baldwin and Sammie Pulsis.
The Seminoles were picked to finish third in the ACC this season, but if this roster overachieves just a bit, they could find themselves making a deep postseason run.
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The Wildcats made the NCAA tournament for the ninth time since 2010 last season, and during that span they’ve appeared in the Elite Eight three times. Still, the Final Four has eluded Matthew Mitchell’s team.
Kentucky returns three starters this year, including Rhyne Howard, who was named Freshman of the Year last season by ESPNW, WBCA, USBWA and the SEC. Howard averaged 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per-game and connected on 74 three-pointers. As a sophomore, she could be poised for an even better season.
The Wildcats also get three transfers eligible this season in Arizona State’s Sabrina Haines and Nae Nae Cole from N.C. State. Haines was an All-Pac-12 Freshman in 2016, and Cole played in 61 games over three seasons at N.C. State. Former McDonald’s All-American Chasity Patterson will also suit up for Kentucky this season after spending her freshman year at Texas.
Kentucky is ranked No. 13 in the first AP poll of the regular season and beat Mount St. Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State to open their season.