North Carolina (31-7, 14-4 ACC) vs. Oregon (33-5, 16-2)
Glendale, Ariz. – University of Phoenix Stadium
Saturday, approx. 8:49 p.m.
CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery)
“My biggest fear is that everyone’s going to talk and those guys are going to talk about the national championship game last year. If we don’t beat freakin’ Oregon, we’re out there in an Uber trying to get our butts back to Chapel Hill. And so Oregon is what we have to focus on, and they will hear that a heck of a lot from me.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
“They’re not going to try and shake you. They just pound those boards, their transition game is off the charts, they’ve got really good players and they’re big. It’s not a case where they’re doing something to trick you, they just try to beat you with really good players and a really good coaching staff that knows how to put those guys in the position that they’re in.” – Oregon coach Dana Altman
“I don’t like their powder blue uniforms, but other than that I don’t think they have a weakness." – Altman
Heels Advance in Thrilling Fashion: The Tar Heels are in the Final Four for a NCAA-record 20th time, but it came by the hand of an unlikely hero. UNC defeated Kentucky, 75-73, in the South regional final after sophomore forward Luke Maye knocked down the go-ahead jumper with 0.3 seconds left to play. The shot not only sent the Tar Heels to Glendale, but also launched Maye into iconic territory in Chapel Hill. While the end result was positive, the game itself was arguably the sloppiest of the tournament for the Tar Heels, who turned the ball over 16 times and shot 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. After an offensive showcase in Las Vegas, the second meeting between the Tar Heels and Wildcats was largely a defensive affair. UNC limited UK’s freshman guards, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, to 25 combined points after the pair had scored 71 combined points in the first matchup. The win sent Williams to his ninth Final Four, good for fourth most all-time.
How Oregon Got Here: The Ducks entered the NCAA Tournament as the Midwest Region’s No. 3 seed and made quick work of their first opponent, overpowering No. 14 seed Iona, 93-77. Oregon had more trouble in the next two rounds, escaping Rhode Island in the Round of 32, 75-72, and outlasting Michigan, 69-68, in the Sweet 16. The final roadblock before punching their first ticket to the Final Four in 78 years was the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. The Ducks put on a defensive clinic, holding Kansas to 60 points, 23 points below their season average, and 35 percent shooting. Tyler Dorsey shined brightest in the Elite Eight matchup, scoring 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The defensive performance of the night, and possibly the whole tournament, came from athletic forward Jordan Bell, who blocked eight shots and collected 13 rebounds.
Oregon Spotlight: Dana Altman’s team found a way to win the Pac-12 regular season title in one of the conference’s most competitive seasons in recent years. The key to success this season for the Ducks has been their consistency, failing to show any glaring weakness throughout the entirety of the regular season. Oregon is led by wing Dillon Brooks, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game and was named first-team All-Pac 12. Opposing defenses can’t afford to focus entirely on Brooks, though, as three other Ducks averaging double digits scoring this season. Dorsey has made a name for himself this season, shooting 42.3 percent from three. On the defensive end, Bell has been a stalwart playmaker on the defensive end. The 6-foot-9 junior averages 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. The Ducks rank 16th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (118.6) and 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency (93.7), per kenpom.com.
Long Time Coming: This year’s trip to the Final Four is Oregon’s first since 1939.
Ducks Survive Without Boucher: Before Oregon’s postseason run started, they lost their catalyst in forward Chris Boucher. The 6-foot-10 senior torn his ACL in the Ducks’ Pac-12 Tournament semifinal game against California. His loss was thought by many to sink Oregon’s title chances as he averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. However, in his absence, Bell has elevated his play on both ends, averaging 13.2 points and 2.6 blocks in the five games without Boucher.
Matchup to Watch: Dorsey has recently delivered some monstrous performances and has been one of the top players in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is averaging 24.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament and has scored 20 or more points in his last seven games. He’s also scoring at a ridiculous rate, shooting 67 percent from the field (34-of-51). The big question is who will take the responsibility of guarding Oregon’s hot hand. Against Kentucky, Roy Williams put Theo Pinson on De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson on Malik Monk, and both defenders effectively contained their assignments. With Oregon using three guards in their starting lineup, Pinson and Jackson are both options for Roy Williams, who may rotate the players to keep them fresh while keeping Dorsey off balance.
Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Oregon, 98-69, on Nov. 25, 2008, in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational Tournament. The top-ranked Tar Heels were led by Danny Green, who scored 21 points off of a career-high five threes. Ed Davis contributed a double-double, scoring 11 points and collecting 13 rebounds.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 4-0.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.6 ppg, 3.6 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.6 ppg, 2.3 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Project Oregon Starters:
1 Jordan Bell (6-9, 225, Jr.) – 10.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg
3 Payton Pritchard (6-2, 200, Fr.) – 7.4 ppg, 3.7 apg
5 Tyler Dorsey (6-4, 195, So.) – 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg
24 Dillon Brooks (6-7, 225, Jr.) – 16.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg
31 Dylan Ennis (6-2, 195, Sr.) – 10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg
2 Casey Benson (6-3, 185, Jr.) – 4.9 ppg, 1.9 apg
35 Kavell Bigby-Williams (6-11, 230, Jr.) – 3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg