The Pac-12 Player of the Year hasn’t won the Pac-12 Tournament since 2008 (Kevin Love). Was the Ducks’ loss Saturday night a foregone conclusion? If so, the tournament committee made it relatively clear that the loss of Chris Boucher – and perhaps not to the Wildcats – would determine their fate. Their fate, of course, is off to the Midwest as the #3 seed out there.
First Round – #14 Iona
The Gaels were the Cinderella of the Metro Atlantic last week. Thus, for the second game in a row, the Ducks must play a conference tournament champiopn. The Gaels stole the auto-bid when Monmouth bowed out in the second round of the MAAC tournament. Because this is the 3 v. 14 game, it’s fair to assume Duck fans have their gaze set beyond this game and on the juicy Dana Altman-Creighton reunion. Not so fast my friends (but kinda fast). The Gaels are led by the KenPom MAAC POY, Jordan Washington. He’s a mid-major center – under-height but substantially bulked. Fouls and buckets are his game, the latter of which are both a blessing and curse. He draws an outrageous 9 fouls per 40 while committing an equally outrageous 6.4 fouls per 40. But that’s me just walking through some obvious stats. The marquee Iona event is Sam Cassell’s son and we all know how Oregon does against former NBA guards’ sons…ok fine…they were 3-1 against GP2 during his two years at Oregon State.
The Others – #6 Creighton
Dana Altman coached this school for sixteen years. That’s a long time, almost as long as the Oregon coaching search took to land Altman. But this is shit you already know. Did you know that Creighton was at one point thought to be a Final Four contender and then their point guard, Maurice Watson Jr, tore his ACL? And then was suspended from the team under sexual assault charges? Not exactly the feel good story of McDermott past. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays are a formidable squad, pieced together of transfers and perhaps cast offs. Sound familiar? The Jays can absolutely stroke it, connecting on 41% of their threes and generally relying on that ability. They won’t soon be crashing the offensive glass (319th in OR%) with Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas leading the way from the perimeter. Meanwhile, it’s everyone’s feel good story, Justin Patton, as a load underneath. He’s the seven-footer who red-shirted as a true freshman and has blossomed after that year of tutelage to put up a casual 13 & 6. What’s interesting about the Blue Jays is that they take a great percentage of offense in transition. It’s on par, for example, with UCLA and, per Hoop-Math, ranks seventh nationally. And they’re good at it, connecting on exactly the same eFG% as, for example, UCLA (60.2%).
The Others – Rhode Island
While I just rattled of two UCLA references, let’s triple up and shout out to Jim Harrick. Hey bud! Further, I have always liked the RI blues. The Rams eked out the A10 tournament title, an impressive feat consider they had no players on the KenPom All-Conference team and that the A-10 produced three NCAA teams. Of course the A-10 can traditionally hoop and Dan Hurley’s squad is no different with the added bonus of Bobby Hurley’s scouting reports. Kuran Iverson is a Josh-Pastner-Memphis-Heyday-Recruiting transfer so you know he’s athletic and can be intermittently fantastic (he’s loosely a center). EC Matthews can/will slash from the wing while Hassan Martin plays something of a traditional Power Forward. Of note, this is a group that’s terrific in its transition defense. Something to take note of in both their matchup with Creighton but also against the Ducks. Oregon doesn’t move the most in the country but does take about a quarter of its offense in transition. And while the Ducks perhaps temper their pace (but only just a little) they get transition buckets: 9th best transition eFG% (63.8%).
Oregon is generally too good to not escape the first weekend. There’s no feel good story for Creighton, they’re just a fine basketball team who lost – arguably – its best player in heartbreaking-then-upsetting fashion (as described, totally classic case, right?). Dana Altman is too good of a coach to let a team go amiss based on rotation adjustments. He’s always dug deep into his bench and even managed to keep Casey Benson producing despite a back up’s role following a starting role on an NCAA #1 seed and Elite Eight run. The real predicting, I suppose, comes down to who Oregon plays in the round of 32. In my rooting interests, I watched this transpire two years ago when Arizona faced Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. This year I think Dana has to handle his former employer to get to next week.