Oregon hoops fans! Time for the Madness
Though the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has somewhat already ‘officially’ kicked off, just about every fan of college basketball knows that the real action begins on Thursday. And after a season that saw them reach as high as No. 10 in the nation, the Oregon Ducks find themselves taking part in the big dance for the first time 2008 as a 12th seed matched up against five-seed Oklahoma State.
Matchup: 12 Oregon Ducks vs. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Where: HP Pavilion (San Jose, California)
When: March 21, 2013 (4:40pm ET/1:40pm PT)
Records: Oregon (26-8), Oklahoma State (24-8)
Needless to say, a 12-seed is not exactly what the Ducks were hoping for.
After stumbling down the stretch and finishing their season with back-to-back losses against Colorado and Utah–successfully losing out on at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title with UCLA–Oregon found redemption in the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Facing the Washington Huskies, Utah Utes, and UCLA Bruins, the Ducks successfully handled all three teams–though they had to eek out a win against the Huskies in overtime–en route to their first tournament title since 2008.
And while Ducks all around the nation were joyous about their tournament performance, the NCAA selection committee was apparently not.
That being said, the Ducks are still dancing this year and will have a great shot to play the spoiler to Oklahoma State and prove to the nation that they deserved to be much higher than a 12-seed.
The last time these two teams met on the court, Oregon took care of business and beat the Cowboys by 13 on December 28, 1987. I think it’s safe to say that their last meeting will not have any impact on this one.
So let’s throw out old statistics and grudges and preview what the two teams will bring to the court on Thursday for an afternoon game slated to begin at 1:40pm PST.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys are undoubtedly led by their fabulous trio of guards, led by freshman Marcus Smart. Not only is Smart projected to go in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, he may very well be the first overall selection when all is said and done. Standing at 6’4″, he presents a major problem for Oregon’s defense, especially if Dominic Artis is not performing at a spectacular level again.
Other than smart, the trio of impressive guards is composed of junior Markel Brown and sophomore LeBryan Nash. All dangerous from the perimeter, these three stellar athletes like to play a more selfish style of basketball when they are on the court and can individually control the ball for long periods of time in order to setup their best shot.
Aside from these three players, though, Oklahoma State is just OK. They aren’t the best rebounding team, don’t dole out many assists, and are alright in their field goal percentage. They really don’t have a dominant big man to shore up all the rebounds, but use their three guards to assist in creating more opportunities off the offensive glass.
In terms of wins and losses on the season, OSU has some very impressive wins and tough losses part of their record. Though they did fall to Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State over the course of the season, the Cowboys riddled their season with impressive victories over teams such as Kansas, North Carolina State, and Kansas State.
In fact, most of their losses came to teams that are also in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
But their early loss to Virginia Teach–a team that finished 13-19 overall–does evidence that the Cowboys can be subject to a less than impressive day on the court.
The Ducks were stumbling towards the end of the season even with the return of freshman sensation Dominic Artis back in the lineup, though he was still rehabbing from a foot injury that took him out of nine games this season. Yet they used a solid performance from Johnathan Loyd in the Pac-12 conference tournament to take the title for the first time since 2008 and create a ton of momentum.
Oregon is almost an exact opposite of OK State in that they rely on an entire team effort to help lead them to victory. A signature of teams under head coach Dana Altman throughout his coaching career, the Ducks distribute the ball very evenly and consistently have multiple players in double-figures. Oregon’s most significant contributors as of late have been E.J. Singler, Loyd, Damyean Dotson, Carlos Emory, and Arsalan Kazemi, players who were also visible during the regular season.
The strength for the Ducks comes from their inside presence as well as ability to haul in rebounds and create fastbreak opportunities with the way they take the ball away.
They have seen the most success when playing up-tempo and should be more than rested for their matchup against the Cowboys.
In terms of wins and losses on the season, Oregon shot right out of the gates but then stumbled once Artis went out with a foot injury. Climbing to as high of a rank as No. 10 in the nation after starting conference play undefeated with victories over teams such as UCLA and Arizona, many believed the Ducks to be one of the elite teams of the season. Unfortunately, after Artis’ injury, Oregon lost all their momentum and took a step back that they have not yet fully recovered from.
Should Artis be back in full form and at the level he was prior to his injury come gametime, Oregon could very well be one of the Cinderella teams of this year’s tournament.
Key Matchup: OSU Guards vs. Oregon Defense
This game will be decided on whether or not the Oregon defense can slow the production of Smart, Brown, and Nash for Oklahoma State. If they can do that, they should be able to command the inside and create opportunities for themselves on the offensive side of the ball, leading to an opening round victory and advancing in the tournament.
That may prove tricky, however, if Artis is not healthy and playing at his top level. With Singler likely shadowing Smart throughout the game, the other two OSU guards will have plenty of opportunities to excel throughout the game.
Whether the Ducks will place Loyd, Emory, Artis, or Dotson on them remains to be seen or figured out.
None of them being truly stellar defensive players, one is temped to believe Emory would matchup best against the other two players for the Cowboys, as he has a little more ferocity and athleticism to his frame.
Loyd would not be a bad choice to throw on the court as a do-everything man, but his height is a BIG issue in this contest.
The rest both teams had coming into this game will pay huge dividends in keeping the game up-tempo and playing in Oregon’s favor. Though Smart, Brown, and Nash will have plenty of opportunities and convert them in the first half, the Ducks will regroup at halftime and figure out a formula for stopping these three players.
Look for Dominic Artis to be near the level he was prior to his injury and for Arsalan Kazemi to have a huge game on the boards and in putting up points.
It will be a heated contest that goes back-and-forth, but Oregon will find a way to come out of this one as winners.
Louisville, K-STATE, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida and Notre Dame are the only FBS schools with 10+ wins football & 25+ wins men’s basketball.
— D. Scott Fritchen (@DScottFritchen) March 19, 2013
E.J. Singler, Oregon’s stabilizing force, gets his shot on basketball’s big stage — bit.ly/WKBEuI
— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) March 21, 2013
— AutzenZoo (@Autzen_Zoo) March 21, 2013
Oregon Basketball: Coach Dana Altman’s Thoughts on Oklahoma State dlvr.it/36PNXN
— Duck Sports Now (@DuckSportsNow) March 20, 2013