Don’t look now, but the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team is punching its ticket to March Madness and the NCAA Tournament, according to Joseph Young.
“We’re going to the (NCAA) tournament. I just want to get that out right now,” Young said after practice yesterday. “We’re going to the tournament. We’ve just got to take one game at a time, and we will be at the tournament.”
Nobody has ever doubted Young’s confidence; the senior guard cannot only talk the talk, but he can also walk the walk. Young is currently the second leading scorer in the Pac-12, and the 16th leading scorer in the nation. With the season winding down to its final few weeks, Young has elevated his play and led the Ducks on an improbable run. Oregon is 4-1 in its last five games. Young has averaged nearly 24 points, five rebounds and five assists during that stretch, which has propelled the Ducks to an 18-8 record (8-5 Pac-12).
But with only five games remaining, and with three of them being on the road, the odds are stacked against Oregon. Its leader, however, isn’t taking “no” for an answer.
“Anything’s possible. I feel like this team has a lot of potential,” Young said. “We score enough points; if we just become a good defensive team, we’re unstoppable.”
Yes, there’s no question Oregon can score points. The high-flying Ducks currently lead the Pac-12 in points per game (76.8), and while they certainly know how to execute a screen and roll on the offensive end, they don’t necessarily do a great job defending one. Oregon’s defense gives up about 71 points per game, and opposing teams are shooting an efficient 46% against the men in green and yellow.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Ducks are currently on the outside looking in with a 20% chance of participating in March Madness. If Oregon hopes to impress the college basketball committee, there’s no doubt it will need to finish the season on a strong note. However, there are a few factors working against Oregon. The Ducks are 0-2 versus teams ranked in the Top 25, and they’re 2-5 against teams in the Top 50.
Last year the Ducks won seven straight games to finish out their season, which helped thrust them into the NCAA Tournament. TeamRankings projects that teams with at least 21 or 22 victories have a solid shot of playing in the famed college basketball tournament. If Oregon wants to receive enough recognition, the men must win at least three of their last five games. The challenge begins tonight against Colorado.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline