It has been since the first Final Four in 1939 that the Ducks have been there, 2008 since any team from the PAC-12 has made it. Last time the conference was represented, it took a UCLA Bruins team powered by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to get there.
Now this time around it is a rag tag group of Oregon Ducks who lost their elite center are one game away from the big dance, the ultimate stage, the final goal. So who is this group and how can they win?
The Oregon Ducks have had a route to the Final Four on par or harder than the one that South Carolina has Traversed. After trouncing Iona on the backs of fantastic performances from Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, the Ducks were up against the Rhode Island Rams and Kuran Iverson. The underestimated 11 seed Rams had the cousin of AI putting up almost eight rebounds a game and now had an Oregon team without their star center.
But the combination of Dorsey (aka Mr. March) and Brooks showed up big again. Brooks’ 19 points and seven boards paired nicely with Dorsey’s 27 points, three steals. The standout performance in the tournament Dorsey was putting together has started to take shape as the key to the Ducks success, made more apparent after the game wining corner three against the Rams.
He has become the threat from beyond the arc that spreads the defense enough to keep the paint clean for players like Brooks or Jordan Bell, despite being out their stud center.
This was never more apparent then against Michigan, when the team shot 3 for 10 from deep, with Dorsey nailing 5 of 7 to keep pace with Michigan in a game that saw the Ducks edge the Wolverines out 69-68. But it is not just him turning it on in March. While Bell jumped on the scene in the Kansas game, he has been a force in the paint he is averaging 12.5 points (up from 10) and 12.5 rebounds (up from 8) to make his tournament run very impressive. That combined with 12 blocks, eight against Kansas, clarifies how much slack he has picked up in the tournament.
Against Kansas Dorsey was the defining player from down town, going 6-10 while the rest of the team hit 3-15. After shooting 42 percent in the season, Dorsey is not knocking down 62.5 percent in March. He also averages 24.5 points a game over his season average of 14.3.
The Ducks have beat a Road Island squad that is stellar in the paint without the Ducks stud center present. A Michigan team that claimed the BIG 10 conference, and the Kansas team that was favored to win it all behind the stunning play of Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham.
All these teams went down because of the elevated production from Dorsey and Bell, paired with Brooks continually being as productive as he has all season long. This team has exploded on the scene with stunning play and a nucleus that runs three deep and plays really well with length on both ends.
This team can beat the North Carolina Tar Heels because of Bell’s play in the paint, Brooks’ fast paced transition game and Dorsey’s three point stroke. They can also beat either South Carolina or Gonzaga because they have hung their hats on defense, none of the teams they have played have had three players preforming together at such a high level offensively.
The Ducks might just have the best shot at winning the whole thing and should put on a show this weekend.