The time has finally arrived. After two long years, we are back in arguably the most exciting time of the year, the NCAA Tournament. With both the Men’s and Women’s teams looking to make a run, we are in for an exciting couple of weeks watching Our Beloved Ducks. Let’s dive right into the matchups and see how Oregon stacks up.
First up, we will take a look on the Men’s side. As a No. 7 seed, the Ducks will take on No. 10 seeded VCU in the first round. On paper, this is a fairly even matchup, but one that could really give the Ducks some trouble. Their player to watch is Nah’Shon Hyland, who averages 19.5 points per game, and makes 2.7 three-pointers per game.
VCU is an athletic, scrappy team that relies on its defense and turning their opponents over to generate their offense. The Ducks, even though a fairly efficient team shooting the ball, do have a tendency to be turnover prone at times. If the Ducks are careless with the ball, the Rams will take advantage and convert those turnovers into points.
Just as VCU likes to force turnovers with their aggressive defense, they also turn the ball over themselves at a pretty alarming rate. Averaging 14.6 turnovers a game, the Rams can get themselves into difficult situations. When the Ducks are at their best, they are forcing turnovers and able to get out into the open floor. With VCU’s stout defense, converting turnovers into points in the fast break will be the major key for the Ducks’ success.
The second phase of the game that will turn the tide is three-point shooting. On the season, the Rams are only allowing opponents to shoot 31% from behind the arc. The Ducks in turn rely heavily on their three-point shooting, which has accounted for 33% of their offense over the season. If the Ducks are not able to hit their shots from outside, it could be another long game for this team.
In the end, this game will come down to who wins the turnover battle. I expect the Ducks to come out on top with their experience and versatility leading the way. Oregon is too balanced, and has too many scoring options for VCU to keep up. It will however, be a close game that goes down to the wire.
In their potential Second Round matchup, I would expect the Ducks to face the Iowa Hawkeyes, and potential National Player of the Year, Luka Garza. At 6’11, 265 pounds, he will be a very difficult matchup for the Ducks, as Oregon does not have much size down low. Garza is going to score his points, that is inevitable. But for the Ducks to have a chance, they need to defend three-point shots first and foremost.
The Hawkeyes are most dangerous when other players besides Garza are able to contribute in a significant way. If the Ducks are able to make Garza beat them virtually on his own, they will have a chance. The game will have to be a shootout, as Iowa is not a very strong defensive team. The Ducks would need to use their length and athleticism on the offensive end to overwhelm the Hawkeye defense and make an impact early enough for them to have a chance late. Certainly a very difficult game in which Oregon would not be favored, this game could be one in which the Ducks pull off the upset.
The Oregon Women’s Basketball team finds themselves in a similar position. Coming in as a No. 6 seed, they will play No. 11 seeded South Dakota. The Coyotes are a well balanced team with three players averaging 14.7 or more points per game. But they are led by Hannah Sjerven, who averages 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
South Dakota is a strong defensive team, holding their opponents to 59 points per game on only 37% shooting. This will be a difficult matchup for the Lady Ducks, who have struggled down the stretch of the season offensively, especially against teams that have size down low.
The Coyotes look to get on their opponents early, outscoring teams 467-291 in the first quarter of games. The Ducks will need to get off to a hot start, and not find themselves behind and needing quick points to catch up. If they do end up behind early, they may not have the firepower to comeback.
This is a game where the natural talent and athleticism will need to take over for the Ducks. Look to make it a fast paced game, in which the Ducks can use their innate ability to outmatch South Dakota. With it looking like Te-Hina Paopao and her playmaking will not be available, the Ducks will need to rely on their bigs, Nyara Sabally and Sedona Prince to be playmakers.
I would expect this to be a hard fought, down to the wire game. The Ducks will have to get out of their offensive funk, and find some success from the three-point line with their abundance of shooters. I do think the Ducks’ overall talent and skill will take over in the end, and Oregon will sneak away with a close victory.
Going into the Second Round, I would expect the Ducks to face off against the Georgia Bulldogs. In what would be another tough matchup against a good defensive team, the Ducks would have to bring their “A” game and shoot the lights out to come away victorious. Certainly not impossible with the talent and shooting ability of this team, just not something we have seen since early in the season from these Lady Ducks.
There is nothing like the excitement and anticipation of the NCAA Tournament. Nonstop, heart pounding action with so much on the line for all programs. Best of all for Oregon fans, both Duck teams are right in the thick of it. I for one, am not one to ever count out Dana Altman or Kelly Graves. Especially come tournament time.
Go Ducks, and may your brackets end up better than mine!
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove
Alex is a lifelong Duck fan living in Eugene who goes to every Football and Basketball game that he can, and appreciates his wife for putting up with him during those seasons. Sports have always been his biggest passion, having played and coached Basketball at the High School level. He hopes to bring a unique and deeper understanding of both the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams at Oregon, and looks forward to nerding out with everyone while writing and talking Ducks!
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