Welcome back to the NCAA Tourney fray, Oregon fans. After a 5-year hiatus, it’s nice to see the Ducks back in the bracket. That being said, I’ll spend a brief moment addressing the unforgivable seeding awarded to Oregon. Pac-12 boss Larry Scott should be seething at the fact that his conference tourney winner was dumped into a 12 seed. There’s no logic that supports this seeding. None. Oregon beat ranked teams – in and out of conference – and damn near completed the Conference tourney / regular season title sweep. Clearly the committee doesn’t think highly of the Pac-12.
They did throw us a mini-bone by placing us in San Jose (they did the same for Cal, who may be the only 12 seed in history to play a home game). HP Pavilion should be a swarm of green and yellow, which actually should provide a lift for an Oregon team that seems to be very streaky and hungry for momentum.
Bottom line: we’re thankful the Ducks are in the field and despite a tough draw, the Ducks have the same chance as the other 63 teams to dance their way to Atlanta. Let’s take a look at their chances!
Round of 64 – #12 Ducks vs. #5 Oklahoma State
The consensus is this is a tough draw for both teams. The “other OSU” or “Beavs of Oklahoma” get a steaming-mad pack of slighted Ducks, fresh off a run through the Pac-12 tourney. The Ducks get a loaded Oklahoma State squad, led by arguably one of the best guards in the country in frosh Marcus Smart. This kid is a lottery pick for certain, and has a certain Damian Lillard-like quality to him. He has a scoring-first mentality, but also sees the floor and distributes well. Plus, he’s not the only one who can fill up the scoreboard: OSU has three guys averaging over 14 points a game (Smart at 15.4, Markel Brown at 15.3 and Le’Bryan Nash at 14.1).
The Cowboys also bring one of the best defenses around. It’s clearly going to take 75-80 points to beat these guys, so the question is: which Oregon offense is going to show up? Will it be the anemic group that struggled through the end of the regular season? Or, perhaps the team that battled to win the Conference tourney will show up?
Round of 32 – #12 Ducks vs. #4 Saint Louis or #13 New Mexico State
More than a few pundits see Saint Louis as a tourney darling this year. They have a great story with Jim Crews taking over after the passing of coaching legend Rick Majerus. They watched the NCAA selection show in a Best Buy because they were in transit during Selection Sunday, and you can’t deny their resume. They beat VCU twice, they beat Butler twice, and they beat New Mexico. However, I’ll present one dent in the armor – they lost to Washington. Yes, yes our poor little purple puppy pals managed to sneak one by Saint Louis earlier in the year. The Billikens are not a high scoring team. They play solid defense and grind out wins. I think this team actually presents a good match-up for Oregon, if they can get past Oklahoma State.
New Mexico State is a cobbled-together roster of Canadian guys, but they have some talent, and are back-to-back winners of the pillaged WAC. Their resume is underwhelming, with losses to the Beavs (haha), and two losses to New Mexico (respectable). They do have one of the biggest guys in the tournament with center Sim Bullar checking in at SEVEN FOOT FIVE. Holy cannoli that’s a big dude! He’s a serviceable scorer too, averaging over 10 points a game. I don’t see the Aggies getting past Saint Louis; they just don’t have the firepower, but if they did, Oregon should be able to handle the Aggies and advance to the Sweet 16.
Other Games To Care About
Despite their rise in popularity at the expense of the Pac-12, you have to love the other west coast squads. Gonzaga looks like it is on the verge of cracking the Final Four, and now turns from Cinderella dreams to #1 seed expectations. St. Mary’s survived the play-in game and takes on a Memphis team coached by winless-in-the-tourney Josh Pastner. And San Diego State, well they beat New Mexico once in three meetings, and they did beat UCLA. I think they have a “coin-toss” game against Oklahoma.
Unless you’ve picked against them in your bracket like I have, feel free to root for Arizona, UCLA, and Colorado. It’s good for the PAC-12 to make a strong showing, but they probably won’t. The University of Shabazz Muhammad will probably lay an egg against Minnesota, and Colorado draws a VERY underrated Illinois team that has already beaten Indiana, Gonzaga, Butler and Ohio State this year. Arizona is likely an easy upset target against Belmont.
It should be a dandy of a tournament. Oregon has a tough first round, but if the team that beat UCLA twice takes the floor, the Cowboys could be in for a rough ride! Enjoy!