How can Pac-12 improve in 2024 Women’s NCAA Tournament? Get tougher

·2 min read

The Pac-12 put seven teams into the 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament. That’s good. However, none made the Elite Eight or Final Four, which is a huge disappointment for a conference which has had Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington all make the Final Four over the past seven years.

Stanford was a No. 1 seed. Utah was a No. 2 seed. Neither team made the Elite Eight. That’s a gut punch for a pair of schools which certainly expected to do better in March.

How can Stanford, Utah, and the rest of the Pac-12 — very much including USC — get better next season? At the Wilner Hotline, Pac-12 women’s basketball reporter and analyst Jeff Metcalfe offered some thoughts about the Pac-12:

“What are the lessons? Clearly, it needs more size and must become more physical. And the guards require more seasoning to handle NCAA Tournament-level pressure.

“All seven tournament teams return enough talent to contend for the field of 68 again next season. The Arizona, Stanford and USC recruiting classes are ranked among the top 10 nationally by ESPN, with Washington and Oregon also in the top 20.”

It is definitely true that Stanford was pushed around by Ole Miss’s tenacious defense, and that Utah’s offense didn’t flow smoothly against Kim Mulkey’s LSU defense. UCLA was swamped by South Carolina’s toughness. Pac-12 women’s basketball teams do need to learn how to win street fights.

USC actually doesn’t have this problem, interestingly enough. The Trojans needed to make games ugly. Their problem was that they couldn’t score. Yet, for the top teams in the league, Metcalfe’s analysis is dead on. Pac-12 teams got punched in the mouth and weren’t able to respond in rugged, ragged battles for survival.

San Diego State is representing the West at the Men’s Final Four. The Aztecs are kings of the rockfight, winning games in the mud. Pac-12 women’s hoops programs have to get better at that.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire