The day before Oregon beat St. Joseph’s in the round of 32, Hawks head coach Phil Martelli was asked what the Philadelphia-based team and fans knew about the Ducks.
“This is my livelihood and I’m saying to you, until I heard on the broadcast that they had finished the season No. 5, I had no idea,” Martelli said. “If you said to our players, did Oregon win the PAC-12 or did Arizona? They would lean to Arizona. As would basketball people in Philadelphia. It’s not disrespectful, it’s just at a certain point in time – all of you are fans – at a certain point in time, you have to be honest. You turn the TV off. You can’t watch any more games. So, Big Monday, at midnight, is no longer Big Monday, it’s Tuesday morning.”
Safe to say that Martelli is speaking for many on the East Coast who don’t stay up to watch the Pac-12. Consider this an introduction to Oregon:
No. 1 Oregon
How they got in: Won Pac-12 tournament
Opponents common to Duke: Utah. In their first major test without Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils lost 77-75, in overtime, to the Utes on Dec. 19 in Madison Square Garden. Grayson Allen was slowed with a flu-like illness and Brandon Ingram’s final shot attempt, a point-blank lay-in, rolled off the rim.
Oregon beat Utah all three times the squads played this year – 77-59 at Utah on Jan. 14, 76-66 at Oregon on Feb. 7 and 88-57 in the Pac-12 tournament championship game.
They’re good at: spreading out a defense and driving. “Athletic” will be the adjective you hear most often associated with Oregon over the coming days, and with good reason. The Ducks have a bevy of versatile guards, wings and forwards who can handle the ball and make plays in and off ball screens. The Ducks play without a true post player, so they can stretch the floor as horizontally as possible and use multiple screeners in the high post. Freshman point guard Tyler Dorsey is the true point Duke lacks, a steady presence who can pass and score. Wings Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks were on the 10-man all-Pac-12 first team.
On the other end, 6-foot-10 forward Chris Boucher is one of the best shot blockers in the country, averaging three blocks per game. Jordan Bell is a notable rim-protector, too.
They’re not good at: Rebounding. Oregon ranks 224th out of 351 Division I teams in terms of keeping an opponent off the offensive glass. Also, 3-point shooting is not the Ducks’ forte, as just one player, Brooks, hits better than 40 percent of his attempts from deep.
Their guy: Dillon Brooks, So., F, 6-6, 225 (16.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
What to know about him: The Ducks’ leading scorer, Brooks is dangerous with or without the ball on offense, both inside and outside of the arc.
Overall threat level: High
Rationale: Over the past 20 years, this will be just the third time Duke has played an NCAA tournament game as the lower seed (the other two times: 2003 as the No. 3 in the Sweet 16 against No. 2 Kansas, a 69-65 loss; and 2013 as the No. 2 seed against No. 1 Louisville in the Elite Eight, an 85-63 loss). And the Ducks’ offense will test Duke’s defense, which has been inconsistent throughout the season.
Storylines you’ll hear about: How good is Oregon, really, given the Pac-12’s sorry showing in the NCAA tournament (out of seven teams, only the Ducks survived to the second weekend)? And while many felt that the West was the weakest region initially, it is the only reason to have its top four seeds advance to the regional round.
Duke fans should be concerned because: Oregon will be favored to beat Duke, and the Ducks play differently than any other team the Blue Devils have faced this year. On paper, this is not an ideal match-up for the Blue Devils, given Oregon’s athleticism. Also, Boucher might be the only college player capable of somewhat neutralizing Ingram’s length.
Duke fans shouldn’t be concerned because: If Duke loses, fans can take solace in the fact that this team probably overachieved by making the Sweet 16.
Final word: This rare West Coast trip for the Blue Devils and Mike Krzyzewski, who are 0-4 all-time in NCAA tournament games played in the Pacific time zone, should at least provide an entertaining game.