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It’s difficult to say No. 1 Oregon will get its “first test” this weekend. That really came in the form of the U.S. national team, which it dispatched Nov. 9 as only the second team ever to defeat the pros.
It is, rather, the first time the Ducks will face a ranked foe and they’ll travel across the country to do it, facing No. 17 Syracuse for the second time in program history. The first was last season and it was a two-point game at the finish in Eugene.
That that was then. This is now. Ruthy Heberd is having a phenomenal start, Sabrina Ionescu is beefing her records and Satou Sabally is back in green. To his part, Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said there’s no pressure.
On to what to watch this weekend in women’s college basketball.
No. 1 Oregon (3-0) at No. 17 Syracuse (3-0)
Sunday, 4 p.m. ACC Network
A host on ESPN Syracuse radio this week accidentally began to say Sabrina Ionescu’s name while talking to an Orange player during a segment about the game this weekend. And who can blame him?
Ionescu is unarguably the light of women’s college basketball and a problem for every foe. Not only is she a problem, teammates Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally make it impossible to focus on the triple-double queen without getting burned.
Hebard is averaging 23.7 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, both top six in the nation through Wednesday’s games, while shooting 78 percent, fourth in the nation. Ionescu extended her triple-doubles record to 19 games last week and became the first collegiate player to have one in four different seasons.
It’s the top-ranked Ducks first trip out of Eugene this season and they’ll kick off the 10-day road trip all the way across the country in Upstate New York. Sabally will make the trip fresh off a return from competing at Eurobasket with the German national team.
Syracuse (3-0) dropped a two-point contest, 75-73, after leading by six with under three minutes to go in Eugene last autumn but this is far from the same team. Star point guard Tiana Mangakahia is redshirting while recovering from breast cancer — the team announced she was cancer free this month — and forward Miranda Drummond has graduated.
Sophomore guard Emily Engstler has stepped into Drummond’s spot and has put up consecutive double-doubles to lead ‘Cuse. The team is shooting 39 percent, averages 68.7 points per game and has a scoring margin of 16.4 points. It’s a squad that works to be strong in transition and behind the arc and will need to put in a strong team effort to stay undefeated.
Oregon is shooting 52.3 percent overall, averaged 99 points through three victories, and has an average margin of 45 points.
“We have no pressure. I guarantee you that if you went down on everyone’s list, everyone has us losing except probably for like me and my team. So we don’t have any pressure,” Hillsman said, via syracuse.com. “We have the No. 1 team in the country coming in here, they’ve got to win the game. We’ve got to come out and just play hard. Things happen and roll your way, it could be a whole different kind of story.”
If Syracuse wins, it’s an all-time upset not only because of how stacked this Oregon team is and the Ducks victory against Team USA. Syracuse is 0-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1.
Notre Dame (3-2) at No. 21 Michigan (4-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
So Notre Dame dropped out of the rankings for the first time in 12 years. It had to happen some time. The Irish still have the nation’s best recruits and a legendary coach to beware of.
Sam Brunelle, the No. 1 ranked forward in the class of 2019 according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz, had the first double-double of her career against Toledo Wednesday night. She had 19 points and 13 rebounds in a 54-51 victory. She’s the first Irish player to start her career with five double-digit scoring games.
The Irish have the upper hand with points off of turnovers and in transition. No. 21 Michigan will be able to work the paint given a size mismatch. The Wolverines are averaging 10 offensive rebounds a game.
Naz Hillmon is averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Amy Dilk is averaging 10.5 and 8.0, respectively. It’s the first test for the young ranked squad with No. 17 Syracuse awaiting on Dec. 5 at home.
Arizona (5-0) at Montana (2-1)
Sunday, 4 p.m.
There’s no upset alert here, but rather a team to keep an eye on in the stacked Pac-12. Arizona upended No. 22 Texas, 83-58, last week behind Aari McDonald’s school record 44 points.
The redshirt junior hit 14 of 18 shots to eclipse her own mark of 39 set last season and shared with Davellyn Whyte. McDonald, a 5-foot-7 guard, is 10th in the nation in points per game (23.2) and second in total points (116).
Cate Reese contributed 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block in the team’s latest game against Prairie View A&M that puts the the Wildcats at 5-0.
Wildcats fans hoped the victory would push them into the Top 25. It didn’t, but a solid victory this week should do it. The Pac-12 would have six teams in the Top 25 if all the five others remained.
Buffalo (4-1) at No. 3 Stanford (4-0)
Sunday, 5 p.m.
Losing Cierra Dillard hurts the Bulls, but they do have freshman Dyaisha Fair averaging 26.4 a game. It’s second best in the nation behind Binghamton senior Kai Moon (27.8).
Buffalo senior Theresa Onwuka is also in the top 20. The senior guard averages 22.0 per game. But after that, the Bulls need help. A contest against Stanford on the road will be an early determinate of who far this squad can go, especially after a Thursday night loss to San Jose State.
Ohio is the preseason favorite in the MAC; Buffalo came in second in the east division.
Stanford has a top-10 offense, averaging 88.8 points per game, and a top-25 defense, allowing opponents an average of 51 points. Sophomore Lexi Hull has taken a clutch early role for the Cardinal averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 61 percent, including 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from beyond the arc. They’re off an overtime victory against Gonzaga.
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