For Duke to defend its national championship, the Blue Devils must confront a mirror image of themselves.
Oregon, the top-seeded team in the West Regional, owns the Pac-12’s version of Brandon Ingram: 6-foot-10 Chris Boucher, a senior forward from Montreal who not only amassed a school-record 109 blocks but also made 34.6 percent of his three-point shots.
“I’m not sure anybody has that,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
The 6-foot-9 Ingram, by comparison, converted 41.5 percent of his three-pointers while averaging 6.8 rebounds and 17.1 points.
“We never played a player like that,” Ducks forward Dillon Brooks said. “He brings a lot to the table.”
But Brooks might present the biggest challenge for the Blue Devils. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward from Metropolitan Toronto made the All-Pac 12 first team and the All-America third team, and will bring an average of 16.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists to Thursday night’s regional semifinal.
“I think he’s their best player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s probably as versatile a player as I’ve seen. He does everything. He rebounds. He defends. He hits threes.”
Brooks also plays a pivotal tactical role for coach Dana Altman’s Ducks.
“He’s the matchup that I think a lot of teams have had problems with,” Krzyzewski said. “Dana does a really good job of putting him in a position where he can take advantage of matchups.”
Yet the Ducks provide other individual challenges not named Brooks or Boucher
“They basically have seven starters and they play off of each other really well,” Krzyzewski said. “They play with a great verve.”
Senior forward Elgin Cook, another member of the All-Pac 12 first team, averages 14.5 points as Oregon’s second-leading scorer.
Cook entered the NCAA Tournament as the most outstanding player of the Pac-12 tournament. In his past two games, he has contributed 11 points and a career-best 13 rebounds in the first-round win over Holy Cross, then scored 18 points in the second round against Saint Joseph’s.
Freshman guard Tyler Dorsey, who’s from Los Angeles, started 33 of 34 games and made the conference’s All-Freshman team. During the Pac-12 Tournament, Dorsey averaged 19.6 points to make the All-Tournament team.
“They have a great half-court, three-quarter-court press that really works for them,” Duke guard Derryck Thornton said. “They get a lot of offense out of that.”
Defensively, Oregon combines athleticism and versatility with Brooks’ and Boucher’s height to limit opponents to 68.5 points per game.
“It allows them to switch to a lot of stuff because they all can guard similar positions,” guard Grayson Allen said. “Their guys attack you.”
So how can the Blue Devils succeed?
“Use shot fakes and just try to attack the offensive glass when guys go up for shots,” said Ingram, who added that he and his teammates must “do whatever we have to do to keep them on their heels.”