Previewing Duke v. Oregon

Previewing the game between fourth seeded Duke and No. 1 seed Oregon. The two teams will meet in the Regional semifinal tonight in California. The game will tip-off at approximately 10:10 PM EST.

OREGON DUCKS

30-6 Overall, 14-4 Pac-12 

PROJECTED STARTERS

F- 23 Elgin Cook (14.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
F- 24 Dillon Brooks (16.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F- 25 Chris Boucher (12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
G- 02 Casey Benson (5.9 ppg, 2.3 apg)
G- 05 Tyler Dorsey (13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds Dillion Brooks is the kind of athletic wing player that can usually be found on championship level teams.  A member of Canada’s senior national team, Brooks’ game is at its most effective when he’s challenge his defender and attacking the rim.  He’s been a terrific player for Oregon throughout the season and leads the team in scoring.  What makes him so tough is that when he attacks he forces the defense to help which can lead to the Ducks crashing the boards for second chance points - a common theme for whenever Duke has struggled this year.  Brooks is also an accomplished passer (2.9 apg), competent perimeter shooter (34 percent on 131 attempts), and a very reliable free throw shooter (83 percent)

Joining Brooks on the wing is another highly athletic and versatile player in the form of senior Elgin Cook.  At 6-foot-6 Cook can defend four positions on the floor and rebounds well from either the small or power forward position.  While he’s not afraid to shoot from the outside (34 percent on 60 3-point attempts), Cook is more apt to find his points from the midrange and in.  

In the middle Oregon will go with Chris Boucher, a slender yet very athletic center and the only player in the rotation over 6’7.  A former junior college player of the year, Boucher attempts three 3-pointers per game and shoots 35 percent from the arc.  When he goes outside, it’ll pull Marshall Plumlee away from the basket, which could further limit Duke’s rebounding prowess.  

The X-factor for Oregon could be their young point guard, Tyler Dorsey.  A one time Duke evaluation on the recruiting trail, Dorsey was a McDonald’s All-American last year and the state player of the year in California.  Being a long time friend of Duke freshman point guard Derryck Thornton, the two point guards have enjoyed differing levels of success in their first college seasons.  Whereas Dorsey has started 33 of 36 games while averaging 13.7 points per contest, Thornton has been in and out of the starting lineup and has only shown flashes of potential and the steady hand Duke needs at the lead guard position.  Of course, Thornton reclassified late in 2015 to enroll early.   Entering the game Dorsey is actually due for a big performance.  For the season he’s a better than 40 percent shooter from the outside, but he’s shooting only 2-of-9 in the NCAAs. 

THE STORYLINES

DEPTH MAY NOT MATTER TO EITHER TEAM

Depending on the match-up, Duke will play either six or seven players on any given night.   The final man in the rotation, Chase Jeter will usually get around 8 minutes of game action.  Similarly, Oregon isn’t an overly deep team either.  The Ducks played just seven players in their win over St. Josephs in the second round.  The difference between the two teams, however, was summed up by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski who noted that the Ducks essentially have “seven starters” in their rotation.  

What Oregon likes to do is get to attack and get fouled.  The Ducks enter Thursday night’s match-up having attempted 200 more free throws than their opponents on the season.  In a game where the opponent will play an aggressive style, Duke will have to not only radically improve its defense over a 40 minute span, but also do so without committing personal fouls.   

THREES NEED TO FALL

Oregon has struggled to defend the perimeter at times this season.  Opponents are shooting 36 percent from long range against the Ducks.  That’s a respectable number, but it also explains just how bad Oregon’s defense against the 3-pointer had been.  Over the last seven games the Ducks have locked down teams from the outside and have allowed those seven opponents to shoot just 33 percent from the outside.  

Since Amile Jefferson went down with an injury in the ninth game of the season, Duke has found over 36 percent of its scoring from the outside.  The Blue Devils average more than nine made 3-pointers on the season and have three players (Ingram, Allen, and Jones) who have made 70 or more long range attempts.  

Head coach Dana Altman identified Oregon’s improved perimeter defense and Duke’s ability to shoot from distance as a key point in his team’s preparation.

“They take a lot of threes, you know, and it's been a problem for us all year, pushing out on three-point shooters,” said the Duck coach.  “So it's going to be a big test for us. We're going to have to do a much better job of forcing them off the line a little bit and getting out and guarding their three-point shooters.”

BATTLE OF THE BOARDS

Perhaps no other stat will mean more to this game than the rebounding margins.  Duke can score with anyone in the country.  The defense can be solid, but is inconsistent…and yet that can be masked with tempo and scoring.  What can’t - or hasn’t been as easy to hide is the Blue Devils poor rebounding at times.  The Ducks are actually smaller than the Blue Devils, but they crash the boards and size certainly didn’t matter when Yale out-rebounded Duke by 14 to turn a blowout into a nail biter last weekend.  

Notebook:

- Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has won a record 90 NCAA Tournament games. Only one other active coach (Roy WIlliams) has coached in 90 NCAA Tournament contests.

- Krzyzewski’s record 23 Sweet 16 appearances are five more than the next-closest coach on the list (Boeheim - 18).

- Grayson Allen was a first-team All-ACC pick and earned Co-Most Improved Player honors from the coaches. Brandon Ingram was a second-team All- ACC selection and the ACC Freshman of the Year.

- Duke’s average of 81.5 points per game is the sixth-best among major-conference teams. The Blue Devils rank fourth nationally in offensive efficiency (120.3).

- Luke Kennard ranks second in the ACC and ninth nationally with an .889 free throw percentage, third-best in Duke history by a freshman.

- Marshall Plumlee has dunked 58 times on the season, tied for the fifth-best single-season total in program history.

They Said It:

"Duke is a brand all by itself in college basketball. It's a great opportunity for our young team to play on this stage, and hopefully we'll play well." - Oregon head coach Dana Altman

“It's interesting with ESPN, every time I look at the ticker, it's something we haven't done. So we've won 90 games in the NCAA. Yeah, I've never been one to look at what I do on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or whatever. I've looked at what we've done cumulative. So it's our 23rd Sweet Sixteen. We've been in 116 NCAA games, and we're honored like crazy to be in here.” - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Duke being 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament in the Pacific timezone.

“I know a lot of the guys are really motivated. I've been watching Duke all our lives, and once we see the lettering "D-U-K-E", we're going to come out there with red on our face and just really take it to them.” - Dillon Brooks on preparing for Duke

The Prediction

Entering the game it’s fair to say that Oregon beating Duke would be the best win of the Duck’s season to date.  Should the Blue Devils win, however, you can make a real case that it’d be maybe the third best win of the year behind Duke’s victories over Virginia and North Carolina.  In short, Duke is more tested than Oregon and probably more used to this kind of stage.  Still, Oregon has a ton of athleticism and versatility and the Ducks can use those things to force Duke into the kind of mistakes that have been a hallmark of Bleu Devil defeats this season.  In this one we look for the Blue Devils to try and leverage Ingram - the one player Oregon can’t immediately match-up with and then rely on Allen and Kennard to score.  If Duke can lock down Dorsey and, perhaps Cook, they will win.  Of course they will also have to rebound, which is something that’s been spotty at best.  Still, we like Coach K’s kids to win once more in the Tournament in a close game.

Duke - 82
Oregon - 77


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