The Associated Press
As a Seattle native, Sue Semrau is familiar with making a cross-country flight. As the Florida State women's basketball coach, she's aware of another trip her program could make if it can get a win Saturday.
Consecutive 22-point victories in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament sent FSU (27-6) to the West Regional semifinals in Stockton, Calif. FSU is in the Sweet 16 for a third straight year and has the goal of returning to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015.
Standing in the way of the Elite Eight is a 6:30 p.m. tip against Oregon State. The Beavers (31-4) are among the hottest teams in the nation, having lost twice since mid-January.
"We've talked about what we've learned in years past, what we've learned from this experience and put that behind us," Semrau said. "We've talked about what lies ahead, what we need to do, and we're just focusing on the now."
For most of the season, the Seminoles were among the most dominant teams in women's college basketball. They entered mid-February with two losses. One of those defeats was a two-point loss to No. 1 Connecticut, a team that has won 109 straight games.
The Seminoles would see struggles before reaching the NCAA Tournament, however. FSU lost four of its final six games, including an upset loss against Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
FSU was given a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tourney and hosted the first two rounds, where it picked up consecutive blowout wins over Western Illinois and Missouri.
"I think that coming off the loss to Miami, it was a little hard for us," said senior forward Ivey Slaughter, who is averaging 9.5 points and 6.3 rebounds this season. "Like what Coach Sue said, it was a blessing in disguise. If we were the No. 2 seed, we'd be in the Bridgeport Region right now, and luckily we got to the Stockton Region."
Any team in the Bridgeport Regional is haunted by the looming figure of UConn, its lengthy win streak and the challenge of beating the Huskies despite what's essentially a home-court advantage. Bridgeport is around 90 miles way from UConn's campus in Storrs, Conn.
It's not to suggest the Stockton Regional is easy, but there's no real advantage for any one team.
Of the four teams in Stockton -- FSU, Oregon State, Quinnipiac and South Carolina -- the Beavers had the least amount of travel. Even then, OSU is 564 miles away.
The Beavers reached the Sweet 16 with a one-point win over Long Beach State in the first round and a 12-point win over Creighton in the second.
"They're big, pretty long, and so I think it's going to be pretty important for us to play up tempo, rebound the ball and defend well," said Seminoles redshirt junior guard Imani Wright, who is averaging 10.8 points over 27.5 minutes. "But they're a really good team."
Oregon State is making its fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It's the longest such streak in program history. It's also the Beavers' second straight year in the Sweet 16, with the team being anchored by experienced players.
Senior point guard Sydney Wiese, who is 6-foot-1, leads the Beavers with 15.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Junior center Marie Gulich, who stands 6-5, is averaging 10 points and 8.2 rebounds. Senior guard Gabriella Hanson, who is 5-11, was named the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The winner of FSU-Oregon State will face the winner of Quinnipiac-South Carolina at 9 p.m. Monday.
"Oregon State is a great basketball team. They have great size, great discipline and their coach [Scott Rueck], he's a great friend of mine," Semrau said. "They have a tremendous point guard in Sydney Weise. ... Even though we're across the country, we're pretty familiar with each other."