Ducks Plan on Beating the PAC-12's Best Defenses

Mar 25, 2017; Bridgeport, CT, USA; The Oregon Ducks celebrate their win over the Maryland Terrapins in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. Oregon defeated Maryland 77-63. - David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks (20-3, 9-1) will compete against two of the PAC-12's best defenses back-to-back at Matthew Knight arena. First, the California Golden Bears will attempt to forget about last week's loss to ASU and boost their chances of getting into the Big Dance by upsetting the Ducks. Then, the Stanford Cardinal will try to claim queen of the mountain by knocking off Ionescu and her squad.

Let's take a harder look at these teams, shall we?

No. 25 California, 5th in PAC-12, (15-6, 6-4)

The Golden Bears' best win so far this season was against Washington State on January 14th at Haas Pavilion. Forward Kristine Anigwe played a lights out game, scoring 30 points in California's 66-60 win. If they are to be competitive versus the Ducks in Eugene then the 6'4 Anigwe will need to find similar success, and against much better competition. It certainly wouldn't be out of the question; she's scored more than 20 points in 7 of her games this season and is leading her team by averaging 17.5 points per game. This becomes an even more significant stat when you discover that the Golden Bears are averaging only 60 points a game.

If Cal were to win it would be based on their defense. Opposing teams are averaging 61 points against the Golden Bears (the 2nd best scoring defense in the Conference of Champions) and are limited to 39% on field goals (tied with Oregon for 2nd best field goal defense in the Conference of Champions).

Oregon can have a very simple game plan as far as defense is concerned; limit Anigwe by using McGwire and Hebard to block and contest shots, and force the Golden Bears -who are the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference- to shoot from deep.

No. 24 Stanford, 3rd in PAC-12, (14-8, 8-2)

Stanford will come into Matt Knight Arena hoping to dethrone the Queens of College Basketball. With their only conference losses coming from powerhouse UCLA and scrappy Arizona State, Stanford is in a prime position to sit atop the PAC-12. Stanford is much like Cal defensively, only better. They possess the best scoring defense and field goal defense in the conference at 56.2 PPG and 34% respectively. Stanford also does a great job of defending the three, limiting the opponents three-point percentage to 28%.

The Cardinal has two upperclassmen that they rely heavily on for the majority of their scoring: Guard Brittany McPhee and Forward Alanna Smith. Alanna Smith has proven herself as a crucial part of her team, averaging 7.5 rebounds and 13.3 PPG. McPhee missed nine games this season due to a foot injury, but since her return from the bench (her first game back she scored 27 points in 28 minutes in a losing effort against then No. 7 Tennessee) she has wasted no time leading her team, adding 16.2 PPG and clutch 4th quarter shooting in wins against UCLA and USC.

What's at Stake?

A win will be a giant leap towards becoming conference champions and clinching the top seed in the PAC-12 Tourney, a split would most likely put us in a three-way tie for top billing, and being swept would result in a tumble from the top ten nationally and a humbling fall from grace in conference standings.

Cal @ Oregon: PAC-12 Network, 8PM Friday
Stanford @ Oregon: PAC-12 Network, 12PM Sunday

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