The competition takes a meteoric leap this weekend in the PKI for No. 18 Oregon, where the Ducks open against No. 8 North Carolina.
Oregon (4-0) is coming off its least impressive win of the season so far, a 66-54 win over Southern Utah on Tuesday, and anything resembling that feat will not succeed this afternoon (2 p.m.) against the Tar Heels ESPNU) at the Chiles Center.
“We have to play a lot better, there’s no question about that,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “Much more intensity. I guess those were good tunes for this tournament, but now it’s coming true. Hopefully our kids may have learned a lesson (Tuesday) night. As a coach, I realized that we have a lot to do.
“North Carolina, I’ve seen them a few times and they’re really, really good. they are long You are athletic. They have playmakers. You have size. You really are the whole package. They are a legitimate top 10 team.”
Alyssa Ustby (15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds) leads five players with a double-digit average for North Carolina (4-0), who also put on an uninspired performance against James Madison, who led at halftime.
Oregon is targeting an early top-10 win, its first since beating Arizona and UConn in back-to-back games last January.
“I’m very excited to see what our team can do against a top 10 team,” said guard Te-Hina Paopao. “We’ve got a whole game to put together and I know we’re going to be great.”
The Ducks are built to run through Paopao and Endyia Rogers, and receive significant input from freshmen Grace VanSlooten and Chance Gray, and sophomore Phillipina Kyei. It’s by far the biggest test yet for the younger UO players.
“Proving ourselves on a big stage is going to be great for us,” Gray said. “We took it one game at a time. Now we are here so we are ready to go and mature.”
No. 5 Iowa State meets Michigan State in the other half of the bracket. The winners and losers of today’s games will be played on Sunday.
“I think we’re ready for that,” Graves said. “I think it will be good for us. It’s tricky – as much as everyone thinks taking down teams is fun, it really isn’t. When you get competitors they want to play against the best and start Thursday and move on after that and for the next month we have possibly the toughest month-long stretch of any team in the country.
“We cut out our work for ourselves. i’m ok I think we’ll be fine. I think our newcomers will rise to the challenge and we have good experienced guards who are already used to this type of competition.”