The PAC-12 has not sent a team to the Final Four in seven years. Now, the Oregon Ducks have a chance to end the drought. Is this where fans expected to see the Ducks, in the Elite Eight sporting a No. 1 seed, at the beginning of the season?
AtQ - That's a really tough one. Coming into this season Oregon fans weren't entirely sure what to expect after losing Pac-12 player of the year Joseph Young. With incoming freshman Tyler Dorsey and junior college transfer Chris Boucher there were so many intangibles. The talent looked to be there for a Sweet Sixteen team. But soon enough things started to click and this team came together amazingly. What's one of the interesting parts of this team is that key transfer from Villanova Dillon Ennis only stepped on the court twice.
There's no denying the speed and athleticism of this Ducks team. With four players averaging double-digits in scoring, the options are plentiful in terms of scoring. Aside from Dillon Brooks, who could be the x-factor in the Elite Eight?
AtQ - Jordan Bell. No doubt to me that Jordan Bell is the x-factor for the Ducks. The big man did a fantastic job off of the bench against Duke and provides Oregon many weapons. In just his second year as a Duck, Bell is already Oregon's career leader in blocks. Big man Chris Boucher offers great rim protection and three point shooting, but Bell is a great compliment with his athleticism to block shots and the ability to score in the post. Someone else to keep an eye on off the bench is Dwayne Benjamin. Often the six man for the Ducks, Benjamin has been in major foul trouble the last two games forcing into a very rough stretch.
Defensively, Oregon ranks 245th in the nation allowing opponents to connect on 35.6% of their outside shots. Knowing the Sooners are one of the premier three-point shooting teams in the country (42.6% conversion rate), is that the biggest area of concern?
AtQ - No doubt that three point shooting is a big concern against the Sooners. The very same situation was present heading into the Duke game as many of the Blue Devils had the ability to knock down the three. The most impressive thing about Dana Altman is that he is able to throw multiple looks and defenders at an offense to throw them off their game. Oregon was burned in the Sweet Sixteen by Brandon Ingram behind the line, but other than that the other players didn't do much damage. Coach Altman will be hoping for the same thing Saturday, it's okay to have one or even two guys hitting from behind the arc but when the whole team gets involved the Sooners will be difficult to beat.
In the past Buddy Hield has failed to hit his seasonal numbers when opposing teams run an extra defender at him. The move effective removes the ball from Hield's hands forcing the supporting cast to pick up the slack. If you're in Dana Altman's shoes, what's your game plan against Buddy Hield?
AtQ - The game plan will be very similar to the one that was deployed against Grayson Allen of Duke. Altman loves to run a hybrid zone-man combination which throws multiple defenders at one player. Look for Casey Benson and Tyler Dorsey to spend a lot of time guarding Hield with the help coming form wings like Dillon Brooks or Elgin Cook. Sometimes when the double comes, Oregon can get lazy on the back side and give a chance for easy layups or three pointers on the back side. This will be huge to watch Saturday in how much attention the Oregon defense pays respect to Hield vs worrying about the rest of the playmakers.
Give us your score prediction.
AtQ - Putting me on the spot! I have to go 85-81 Oregon. I have so much respect for this Oklahoma team and what Buddy Hield has accomplished and after watching their tournament so far there is no doubt that they are the real deal. Really what i see this one coming down to is the rebounding battle as both teams hover right around the same rebounding totals per game. Whoever wins that battle I believe will have an excellent shot at winning this one. Before the tournament I had this pegged as one of the games of March, and I expect nothing less come Saturday afternoon.
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