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Several top 25 basketball teams, including Oregon, Iowa State and North Carolina, will compete in the Portland tournaments

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon women's basketball forward Nyara Sabally (1) drives to the basket against Oregon State's forward Ellie Mack (20) on Feb. 11 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

For the first time since its creation, the Phil Knight basketball tournaments in Portland will include a couple of women's brackets. And like the men's, the fields for both tournaments will be star-studded.

Connecticut and Oregon are just two of the perennial powers heading to the Rose Quarter and the Chiles Center later this week. Take a look at all the big teams and names coming to the Rose City starting on Thanksgiving.

Phil Knight Legacy

Oregon State vs. Iowa, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25, Chiles Center

UConn vs. Duke, 3 p.m. Nov. 25, Chiles Center

Oregon State

The Beavers found themselves on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament last year, missing their shot at a national title altogether for the first time since 2013. It won't be an easy climb back to national prominence though, with the team losing Kennedy Brown and Taylor Jones in the transfer portal to Duke and Texas, respectively. Greta Kampschroeder, a promising freshman prospect last year, also transferred. In addition, the team loses out on the services of Tea Adams, Emily Codding and Ellie Mack, who all graduated.

The team will have a strong returner in Talia von Oelhoffen. The 5-11 sophomore guard led the team in scoring last season and will have returning players assisting her including center Jelena Mitrovic, guard (and Valley Catholic High School alumni) Noelle Mannen and guard AJ Marotte.

New to the team this year are top recruits Timea Gardiner, Raegan Beers, Adlee Blacklock, Lily Hansford and Martha Pietsch.

Through four games, the Beavers are flawless, squeaking past Hawaii 61-60 before blowing out Seattle, Eastern Washington and Prairie View A&M. The first matchup for Oregon State in the Phil Knight Legacy bracket is against Iowa.

Iowa

The Hawkeyes are going to be a stiff out for the Beavers in the opening game. Iowa, currently ranked No. 4 in the country, is a ridiculously high scoring squad, putting up an average of 94.5 points per game through its first four games.

One key piece of the Hawkeyes' plans on offense will be worth keeping an eye on during the Phil Knight Legacy. Caitlyn Clark, the 6-0 shooting guard, rolled her ankle in the team's 84-83 loss to Kansas State, but is expected to be playing by the time Iowa comes to Portland. The reigning Big 10 Player of the Year leads the team in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game.

However, Iowa won't be totally without firepower. Fifth year forward Monika Czinano leads the team in blocks per game and has averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists, as well as field goal percentage. Czinano has made 70% of her shots through four games, and is one of three players to shoot above 50% thus far, the others being forwards McKenna Warnock and Hannah Stuelke.

Connecticut

A historically great program that has 11 national championships led by a great head coach in Geno Auriemma with more than 1,100 wins, the Huskies find themselves suffering from a bit of an injury bug. Connecticut is without the services of wunderkind guard Paige Bueckers, forwards Dorka Juhász and Ice Brady and guard Caroline Ducharme. The team is hindered by a plethora of injuries but not without its ability to score the ball, as evidenced by the 98 points they dropped against an overmatched Northeastern squad, as well as the 83 they scored against No. 3 Texas.

Part of the scoring comes from 5-11 sophomore guard Azzi Fudd, who led the team in scoring in both of its victories. It's a limited sample size, but Fudd is looking to be the breakout player the Huskies need while the team looks to get healthy. The guard averaged 12.1 points per game last season and has 58 points through two contests. Helping Fudd in the back court will be junior guard and Croatia native Nika Mühl. While not the scorer that Fudd is, Mühl was the Big East defensive player of the year in 2022 and is a capable passer, leading the team in assists thus far in the young season and recording nine steals through the first two games.

In addition, the Huskies have former MAAC player of the year Lou Lopez Sénéchal, junior guard and budding international star with Team Canada's U23 team Aaliyah Edwards, and highly touted freshman prospect Ayanna Patterson. Despite the injuries, they will be a tough team on any night.

Duke

Matching up with UConn is the Duke Blue Devils, a team benefiting from a pair of Oregon State transfers in Kennedy Brown and Taya Corosdale. However, it will be senior guard Celeste Taylor and last year's ACC freshman of the year Shayeann Day-Wilson who lead Duke in what the program hopes will be a rebounding year after going 17-13 and 7-11 in the ACC.

As Taylor goes, so should Duke The 5-11 guard averaged 28.6 minutes per game last season and had 11.0 points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game, and, in addition to being a top tier defender, is going to be one of Duke's shot-creators. Day-Wilson also will be tasked with a similar role until players such as senior forward Elizabeth Balogun, Corosdale, Brown and senior forward Mia Heide can find a way to make their scoring marks felt.

Duke is off to a solid start in the new season, going 4-0 with Balogun leading scoring on two occasions and Corosdale and Taylor on the other two. Guard Jordyn Oliver twice led the team with rebounds, as well as assist leadership in three games.

Phil Knight Invitational

Oregon vs. North Carolina, 2 p.m. Nov. 24, Chiles Center

Iowa State vs. Michigan State, 4:30 p.m. Nov. 24, Chiles Center

Oregon

The Ducks are just a few years removed from a legendary team that never got the chance to be crowned national champions. With a squad helmed by now-WNBA stars Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard, the Ducks were poised to make a run before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down sports.

Now, after a first-ound upset loss in overtime to Belmont in last year's tournament, the No. 21 Ducks are looking to come back strong and make a good showing at the Phil Knight Invitational against ranked University of North Carolina. The Ducks will be looking to avoid the injuries that hounded them last season, but news has already come out that forward Sedona Prince will be undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in her elbow and will cut short her college career.

While losing Prince hurts, the team does have star power returning in the form of guards Endyia Rogers, Te-Hina Paopao and Ahlise Hurst, as well as 6-8 sophomore center Phillipina Kyei. While Paopao and Rogers are more than capable scorers, look for the points to also come from forward Grace VanSlooten. The 6-3 freshman leads the Ducks in scoring through three games with 13.7 points per game and 1.7 blocks on 24.3 minutes. Kyei leads the team with 7.7 rebounds; Rogers with 5.0 assists; and Paopao with 2.3 steals.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels have gotten themselves off to a strong 3-0 start with wins over Jackson State, TCU and South Carolina State, but the clash against Oregon will be the first against a team in the AP top 25. North Carolina should be ready for the test.

The Tar Heels return a strong cadre of players and add a string of new recruits while only losing one, guard Carlie Littlefield. The team will be led by junior guard Deja Kelly, a player who averaged 16.5 points per game last season as well as 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Other scoring options for the Tar Heels include junior guards Alyssa Ustby and Kennedy Todd-Williams.

North Carolina averaged 73.1 points per game last season, 33rd best in the country, and gave up an average of 55.8 points per game, the 21st best. Through three games, UNC is on pace to best those averages, but against Oregon and Iowa State/Michigan State that might fall off slightly. But under coach Courtney Banghart, the team is playing its best basketball since the 2014-15 season. Last year the Tar Heels broke 20 wins and will look to do so once again.

Iowa State

The Cyclones were a top 20 scoring machine last season, averaging 76.4 points per game under the guidance of longtime head coach Bill Fennelly. The Cyclones went 28-7 in the Big 12, and did it thanks to the scoring of guards Ashley Joens (20.3 points per game), Lexi Donarski (14.3), and Emily Ryan (13.1). Joens is the fiercest scorer of the three guards, but Ryan finds the most dimes, averaging 7.1 assists per game last season and 5.3 through the first three games this season.

Joens, the team's most proficient rebounder as well, will have assistance with the boards courtesy of transfer and senior center Stephanie Soares. The 6-6 Brazillian gives the front court a strong rebounding presence and led the team in rebounding in the season opener against Cleveland State. In addition, Soares also is leading the team in blocks with 2.7 per game. Perhaps most impressively, Soares went 9-of-11 from the floor for 23 points to help Iowa State overcome Northern Iowa's comeback in the third win of the season.

In addition to the strong rebounding and blocking that Joens and Soares bring to the table, the team also is averaging 10.3 threes per game at about 32% from the floor. It's a lower percentage than last year when the team made 10.2 threes at 38.7%. But Iowa State is committed to shooting the deep ball, putting up 97 threes through three wins.

Michigan State

While outside of the AP top 25, the Spartans have been busy. The team stacked up six wins against overmatched opponents like Delaware State, Purdue Fort Wayne, Western Michigan, Oakland, Florida A&M and Central Michigan and will get its first real test of the year against Iowa State.

Through those first six games, no player besides sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann has averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Swedish guard Matilda Ekh has been the team's leading scorer with 12.2 points per game thus far, while forward Isaline Alexander has been crashing the boards to average 5.8 rebounds, guard Theryn Hallock has been finding 4.2 assists per game, and guard Moira Joiner has been averaging 2.4 steals.

The Spartans will be trying to make their way back to the NCAA tournament this season after missing out last season and will be searching for their first NCAA tournament victory since they defeated Central Michigan in the first round of the 2019 bracket.


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