S. Dakota St.-Oregon St. Preview
Oregon State went from the high of winning the Pac-12 regular-season title for the first time to the low of getting ousted quickly from the conference tournament.
With an impressive resume overall, the 10th-ranked Beavers will still host an NCAA Tournament sub-regional starting Friday against No. 14 seed South Dakota State.
Third-seeded Oregon State (26-4) hopes to learn from the stumbles of the recent past. The Beavers had their perfect home record broken in the final week of the regular season with a loss to then-No. 19 Stanford. The team was forced to put off its celebration of the season title until a victory over 24th-ranked California in the finale.
Then, after an opening-round bye for the conference tournament, Oregon State was defeated 68-65 by Colorado.
Coach Scott Rueck said he hoped his team would learn from the roller coaster.
''Anytime you lose, you certainly need to look at things, no question,'' he said ''You have a choice of making it a positive or a negative. This group has always turned those into a positive. That's just obvious life lessons. So we've got to look at this and understand, hey, postseason basketball. These guys are fighting for their lives.''
Rueck earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors and junior center Ruth Hamblin was named the league's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Hamblin averages 12.9 points and a team-high 8.8 rebounds, and ranks eighth in the nation with 115 blocks.
Junior guard Jamie Weisner tops the Beavers with 13.7 points per game and sophomore Sydney Wiese averages 12.5. They joined Hamblin on the all-Pac-12 team.
South Dakota State (24-8) finished the season with an eight-game winning streak to capture the Summit League tournament title for the sixth time in seven years.
The Jackrabbits have three players scoring in double figures, led by fifth-year senior Megan Waytashek's 14.1 points per game. Guard Macy Miller was named the league's newcomer of the year and averages 13.7 points and a team-best 2.8 assists.
Miller scored 19 in the conference title game.
''When she plays well, we're better,'' coach Aaron Johnston said. ''As a freshman, when people think of you as an elite player who has to do so much ... that's a lot of pressure for a person to go through.''
South Dakota State has lost its last five NCAA Tournament games since beating TCU in its first appearance in 2009.
South Dakota State has faced Oregon State once before, back in 2004 at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The Beavers won 68-65, but the Jackrabbits aren't letting that win, or Oregon State's dramatic rise over the last two seasons, concern them.
''It's not who we play, it's how we play,'' said senior forward Mariah Clarin, who is averaging 11.6 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds.