New season, same lofty expectations for Oregon Women's Basketball originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
The Oregon Ducks were a favorite to win a national championship last season.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and with it, the NCAA tournament was canceled.
It drew to an end one of the greatest regular seasons in program history and left the team just short of the ultimate goal.
The end of the season also meant the end of the reign of terror of Oregon's three-headed monster.
Fortunately for the Oregon program, head coach Kelly Graves has been a maestro on the recruiting trail. Three of the greatest players in team history have moved on, but the roster is still stacked top to bottom.
"I'll tell ya, we got great guards," said Graves during a media availability on Wednesday. "Te-Hina Paopao, she's got a chance to be a real star for us. She's just different. She's come in and she's just different when we workout. Taylor Mikesell's the same. And Jaz Shelley the same. We're gonna be really loaded in the backcourt."
And that is without mentioning Taylor Chavez, who is sure to see a giant uptick in production with Ionescu gone.
"Her biggest asset for us and value, I think, this is year is she can pick up where Sabrina left off in terms of her mentality on the court," Graves said with regard to Chavez. "They're wired the same, that's why they were so close."
But of all the players on the roster, the biggest unknown is Sedona Prince. Ducks fans have not yet seen her in action. Prince sat out her lone season at Texas with a leg injury, then transferred to Oregon. However, she was not granted immediate eligibility and had to sit out last season as well.
Now healthy and eligible to hit the court, Coach Graves expects big things from his big forward.
What's more intriguing is how Graves envisions using Prince.
"Sedona doesn't just have to play inside 10 feet... We're gonna try to play through her a lot, similar to what the Nuggets were doing with (Nikola) Jokic. I love the fact that our inside players are really versatile."
For those that don't know, Jokic is a unicorn at the center position in the NBA. The 7'0", 284lb center doesn't live in the paint. He often takes the ball above the key and initiates the offense.
He has the big body and quick feet to dominate in the paint, but he can tear a defense apart with the crisp passing of a true point guard. A threat to score or find the open teammate, Jokic completely changes the Nuggets offense when he is on the court.
If Prince does the same for Oregon, then the Ducks offense could be impossible to guard.
The G.O.A.T. may be gone. The roster may look different. There may not be fans in the stands. A lot has changed in recent months. When nothing feels the same, there is at least one thing that remained the same: The Ducks have their eyes on a national championship.