Woolard’s Words

UO Ducks flying high and changing womens basketball

Women’s college basketball is finally getting the recognition that it deserves. For years it has been an underappreciated college sport. Now it’s finally starting to see the light.

A big part of the increased excitement over womens college basketball originates right here in Oregon.

Last year the Oregon Ducks womens basketball team advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Pacific Northwest fully bought into this team and cheered them on until their unfortunate loss in the semi finals.

It also helped that the Ducks were in the West Region which hosted its games at the Moda Center. Having Ducks games at the Moda Center brought a huge crowd of Duck faithful and the place was rocking.

I attended these games, and I was astonished by the energy in the crowd. I’ve been to the womens national championship and countless Blazer games and the energy in the Moda Center for the Ducks rivaled both of those experiences.

Many of my family members have attended the University of Washington. So I’ve grown up with a strong hatred of the Ducks my entire life. Yet, for the first time in my life I found myself actually rooting for the Ducks.

I was drawn into the excitement, and I thought it would be really cool to have a team from Oregon win the national championship even if that team was the Ducks.

A large part of the Ducks success is due in art to now senior Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu was a triple double machine last year and a crucial part of the Ducks success. Following the completion of last season there was a bit of uncertainty surrounding whether or not Ionescu would enter the WNBA draft early. To the relief of many Duck fans, she opted to stay for her senior year.

The season has just started, and the Ducks are already off to a historic start. The Ducks were ranked No. 1 overall in the preseason polls and have already pulled off a huge win.

On Nov. 9, the Ducks played against the U.S. womens national team. In preparation for the 2020 summer Olympics the USA womens basketball team has been going around playing exhibition against college teams (Stanford, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Oregon). And they most likely will play more teams later in the year. This isn’t a new concept. USA basketball has been facing off against college teams for a long time. But they’ve never lost. Until they faced the Ducks.

Oregon beat the national team 93-86. The flippin’ national team. Even though they lost to a college team the national team is by no means bad. They ,have suffered significant injuries to star players such as Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart and countless others. Plus the Ducks have been playing together for a long time and the national team is more of a collection of players as opposed to a team (one of the main reasons for this college tour in the first place). Regardless of the state of the national team, they are still the national team. And the Ducks beat them.

Though beating the national team is quite the accomplishment it pales in comparison to the Ducks’ other big achievement. On Nov. 5, Ionescu tweeted, “Why is @Nike not making @Oregonwbb jerseys yet!?!? I’m running out of excuses.”

Almost overnight on Nov. 9, Ionescu tweeted again that the official Oregon womens basketball replica jerseys would soon be available to purchase. Then on Nov.11, the jerseys launched and they sold out in the same day. Nike has not released the number of jerseys that they stocked, but they clearly didn’t anticipate such an overwhelming amount of support for womens basketball.

Ionescu is paving the way for a new phase in womens basketball. Nike has never made a womens replica jersey until now. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but in all actuality, it’s groundbreaking. Having a major sports company acknowledge a need for womens basketball merchandise then having it sell out. Stuff like this is unprecedented.

Womens basketball is finally becoming a major sport and a big part of that is thanks to Ionescu and the Ducks. As much as the Husky fan in me hates to admit it, the Ducks are the best thing to happen to womens college basketball.