Ducks-Hawks Game-Day Preview

At 9:40 Eastern Sunday night, Phil Martelli's St. Joe's Hawks and Dana Altman's (pictured) Oregon Ducks will square off in Spokane, Washington with a trip to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim on the line. Oregon, the number 1 seed out west, cruised to a 91-52 opening-round win over Holy Cross, while St. Joe's won in dramatic fashion, 78-76 over Cincinnati. A full position-by-position breakdown is inside.

Isaiah Miles' three-pointer and Octavius Ellis' subsequent dunk being waived off after being a tenth of a second late resulted in Saint Joseph's winning their opening-round game over Cincinnati. It was the Hawks' first NCAA tournament win in twelve years, since their Elite 8 run with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. The Hawks now have less than 48 hours to prepare for one of the more offensively explosive teams in the country, and the number 1 seed in the West Region, the Oregon Ducks. Today, we break the game down position by position.

Point guard: Shavar Newkirk (SJU) and Casey Benson (Oregon)

Two sophomores, Newkirk and Benson both get the starts for their respective teams in the backcourt. Benson is a 6'3 guard who averages 5.9 points, 3 assists, and 2.2 rebounds a game. One of Benson's greatest attributes is the fact that he doesn't turn the ball over. Benson only has 7 total turnovers in Oregon's last 10 games. He's a solid three-point shooter, at 37% on 2.4 attempts per game. Oregon has plenty of offensive weapons, so Benson moreso acts as facilitator and manager. He only scored in double-digits four times this season. On the St. Joe's side, Shavar Newkirk is a 5'11 guard who averages 8 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. Shavar is in a bit of a slide right now, shooting just 5-24 and averaging 5.4 points per in his last five games. He will have to get after Benson defensively tonight, which is a challenge against one of the most secure ball-handlers in the country. At the moment, I would say this match-up is close to a push, with Benson having a slight advantage.

Shooting guard: Aaron Brown (SJU) and Tyler Dorsey (Oregon)

Here you have a fifth-year senior in Aaron Brown against a true freshman in Tyler Dorsey. Dorsey is a lanky 6'4 guard who can really score it at all three levels, and is especially lethal from three, where he shot 43% as a freshman. He averaged just under 14 points per game this year, and had offensive eruptions against Oregon State (25 points) and Utah (23 points), two tournament teams this year. When Dorsey gets going from three, he's tough to contain, and St. Joe's has had trouble against high-scoring perimeter players this year. He went 4-6 from three against Arizona, 4-6 against Cal, and 4-8 against UCLA. Then, on the flip side, you have Aaron Brown, who is playing hands-down the best basketball of his college career. Brown was dynamic in the A10 tournament, then came up with a huge second-half against the Bearcats int he opening round, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half. Brown has about 40 pounds on Dorsey and four extra years of college experience. Dorsey is the superior shooter and will be tough if the Hawks want Aaron to defend him for long stretches on the perimeter. Look for James Demery to come off the bench to guard Dorsey as well. I give Dorsey the slight nod here too.

Wing guard: DeAndre Bembry (SJU) and Dillon Brooks (Oregon)

Here is your NBA scout's dream match-up. Two future pros going against it on the wing. Dillon Brooks and DeAndre Bembry are both 6'6 wings that can be utility-knife players out on the court. Dorsey averages 16.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, while Bembry averages 17.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Neither are great three-point shooters, with Brooks at 32% and Bembry at 27%. Brooks gets to the line, and is an 83% shooter when he gets there. This match-up right here could ultimately determine whether the Hawks have a shot at upsetting the Ducks. Dillon Brooks, like Bembry, is an NBA player, but this is a match-up Bembry will likely have to win. At the moment, Bembry is playing the best basketball of the year, scoring 30 against VCU and then 23 against a very defensively-minded Cincinnati team. Brooks, like Dre, is capable of going off, and did that in a February 7th game against Utah, where he popped off for 30. If either player gets in foul trouble, that could be a turning point in this match-up, and this game. NBA scouts will be all over this match-up, and you should be too. DeAndre Bembry should be the best player on the court, so I give him the edge here.

Forward: Isaiah Miles (SJU) and Elgin Cook (Oregon)

Isaiah Miles is coming off the game-winning three against Cincinnati and playing with as much confidence in his jumper as anyone in the country right now. He will see another senior tonight, in 6'6 205-pound Duck Elgin Cook. Both Cook and Miles are as consistent as any two forwards in this tournament. Cook scored in double-figures in 27 of Oregon's games this year, while Miles scored in double-figures in every single one of Saint Joseph's 35 games this year, setting a school record. Cook is a decent three point shooter at 33%, but it's not his forte, and he takes less than 2 threes a game. Miles is 39% from three on the year on almost 5 attempts per game. A concern in this match-up is Isaiah Miles getting into foul trouble. He has done that a number of times this year, including against Cincinnati. For the Hawks to really have a shot in this, he needs to be on the court nearly all 40 minutes. Look for Oregon to post up Cook and try to get Miles on switches with Chris Boucher to get Miles to the bench. If Miles can stay out of foul trouble, I give him the edge here. And a pretty solid edge.

Other forward: Pierfrancesco Oliva (SJU) and Chris Boucher (Oregon)

This is a match-up that gives you some nightmares if you're a Hawk fan. Boucher is a long, athletic 6'10 senior from Canada who will be matched up, at least early with 6'8 Hawk freshman Pierfrancesco Oliva. Boucher averages 3 blocks a game, which is a problem in and of itself for a team like the Hawks that likes to attack the rim. But then he's also a 35% three-point shooter. Offensively, his game is away from the rim, where he prefers to throw down alley-oops and shoot threes. But defensively, he is a rim-protector. Frankly, the senior is one of the more unique players in the country, and he demonstrated that Friday when he had 20 points on 8-12 shooting against Holy Cross. Boucher is not the load in the paint that Octavius Ellis or Correontae DeBerry were Friday for Cincinnati. He is a supremely talented player that can impact the game on both ends though. The Hawks can't give him open looks from three, and they also can't allow him to prevent them from attacking the rim. Oliva had been struggling a lot of late, but gave SJU 5 points and 5 boards Friday, and also had 8 against VCU in the A10 title game. While Oliva will start, look for others to come off the bench to help with Boucher. This is a pretty decided Oregon edge.

Bench:

St. Joe's will bring Lamarr Kimble, Papa Ndao, and James Demery off their bench, with Javon Baumann possibly earning minutes. The Ducks basically play a 7-man rotation, with 6'7 senior Dwayne Benjamin and 6'8 225-pound freshman Jordan Bell off the bench. Those two combine for 15.2 points and 8.1 boards per game. When Dylan Ennis went down with an injury two games into the season, it impacted Oregon's depth, backcourt depth, significantly. I like St. Joe's guard options off the bench in Kimble and Demery quite a bit. Benjamin and Bell give the Ducks size and strength and toughness off the bench. I think this is pretty close to being a wash. Kimble and Demery have both been good of late for the Hawks. Kimble will need to shoot it well and not turn it over for SJU, and Demery will need to play his trademark defense and get to the rim and finish.

Oregon is the number one seed for a reason. They had the most RPI top 50 wins in the country this year. They won 28 games in the Pac 12. They score 79 points for game, compared to 77 for SJU. I do like Oregon in this one, but I expect a game. I will go with Oregon 83-St. Joe's 76 in a terrific game in Spokane. If Bembry, Miles, and Brown play as they have though, this one could be tighter, and I wouldn't rule Phil Martelli's bunch out.

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