For the first time since 2010, Portland State is dancing at March Madness in the NCAA Tournament. The Vikings are the No. 15 seed in the Portland Region after winning the Big Sky conference tournament to earn the automatic bid.
Riding a four-game winning streak, Portland State (25-7, 14-6 Big Sky) finished fourth in the Big Sky before defeating No. 5 Montana State (68-56), No. 1 Idaho (75-59) and No. 6 Eastern Washington (61-59) en route to the tournament championship.
Portland State got the drama started before the NCAA Tournament begins when freshman Desirae Hansen stepped up in a huge way, knocking down an elbow jumper with 3.1 seconds left that gave the Vikings a 61-59 win in the Big Sky finals.
Hansen had a good season for the Vikings and is a wildcard if they have any chance at upsetting No. 2 Oregon in the opening round. Not afraid to take the big shot, she was recently named as the Big Sky’s Co-Top Reserve after playing in all 32 games and averaging 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. She does hit 39.5-percent of her shots from beyond the arc and dish out more than two assists per game.
The leader of the Vikings is all-Big Sky first-teamer Sidney Rielly, a 6-foot guard averaging 14.4 points per game while knocking down 39.6-percent of her three-pointers. Courtney West was named the Big Sky defensive player of the year after posting 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game as 6-foot-4 center. West is also a capable scorer, averaging 10.5 points per game on 56-percent shooting.
Guards Ashley Bolston and Kylie Jimenez are the sparks that make the Vikings go, both averaging over 33 minutes per game while scoring in double figures. They might be the hottest players on the team as Bolston was named the conference tournament MVP while Jimenez was named to the all-tournament team.
Bolston averages 12.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists as a 6-foot-2 guard while Jimenez puts up 11.7 points and 4.8 assists per game, knocking down 89-percent of her free throws.
Portland State gets the job done defensively, holding opposing teams to 59.8 points per game on 35.2-percent shooting from the floor and 30.3-percent from beyond the arc. Because they don’t have the firepower to run with Oregon, look for the Vikings to slow the game down and make the most of each possession and use their half-court defense to pressure (force 16.3 turnovers per game) the Ducks into early mistakes.