Oklahoma vs. Portland NCAA Women’s Basketball Preview, Prediction
Here is everything you need to know about Oklahoma and Portland in our Sooners vs. Pilots NCAA Tournament women’s basketball preview.
Greenville Region 1 – First Round
No. 5 Oklahoma (25-6) vs. No. 12 Portland (23-8), Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, Calif.
Game Info: 8 p.m. CT, Saturday, ESPN2
How They Got Here:
Oklahoma was selected an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Portland earned the NCAA’s automatic berth by winning the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Winner gets: A second-round game against the winner of the game between No. 4 UCLA and No. 13 Sacramento State on Monday.
Projected starting lineups
Oklahoma: G Taylor Robertson, G Ana Llanusa, G Nevaeh Tot, F Madi Williams, F Liz Scott.
Portland: G Emme Shearer, G Maisie Burnham, G Mekelle Meek, F Alex Fowler, F Lucy Cochrane.
Player to watch
F Skylar Vann: Right now, Vann is the best sixth player in the Big 12, having won the award each of the last two seasons. On any other Big 12 team she would be a starter right now. But, because the Sooners have three super-seniors, she’ll have to wait until next season to be a starter. But Vann is already a star and a go-to player for the Sooners. In OU’s Big 12 quarterfinal win over TCU last Friday, Vann was the player the Sooners turned to for the game-winning basket, as her lay-up with 2.2 seconds left secured the win. She had 21 points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench. For the season Vann is averaging 11.5 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds.
F Alex Fowler: The junior was the Pilots’ only All-WCC First Team selection. She has four years of college experience and she put together her fourth straight exceptional campaign, averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. While her rebounds went down from last season (8.0 per game), her assists per game went up to 3.5 and she also averaged more than a steal per game for the fourth straight season. At 6-foot-2 she’ll pose a matchup issue for any team. But she can be found close to the paint, as she won’t stretch defenses to the 3-point arc. Don’t send her to the free-throw line. She shot nearly 80 percent there this season.
The Sooners entered the season with a stacked roster and high expectations after reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament under first-year coach Jennie Baranczyk. For the most part, the Sooners have lived up to those expectations. Despite being swept by Texas in both regular-season meetings, the Sooners were able to win a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and earn the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament. There, the Sooners dodged a bullet against No. 10-seed TCU and then fell to No. 3 seed Iowa State in the semifinals. The only upside was an extra day of rest, as the loss cost the Sooners a chance to, perhaps, claim a No. 4 seed and a home sub-regional. The Sooners go into the NCAA Tournament having won three of their last four and nine of their last 11.
The Pilots haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since losing to Michigan State in the first round in 1997. The Pilots had a berth clinched in the 2020 Tournament but COVID-19 canceled the Tournament. Portland is 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament all-time. This version of the Pilots played four ranked teams and lost four of those games — once to Stanford and Oregon and three times against Gonzaga in West Coast Conference play. But, when it mattered most, the Pilots stole someone’s bid by beating Gonzaga, 64-60, in the WCC Championship game.
Oklahoma 82, Portland 67. I won’t say OU will cruise to a win here. But they have the matchups to win this game. Portland won’t be intimidated. Gonzaga was a Top 25 team all season. But OU’s talent and offensive firepower should allow the Sooners to advance.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.