When the brackets were announced many believed that the Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon Ducks were under-seeded by the selection committee, which handed Dana Altman’s team a 12-seed and a game against 5-seed Oklahoma State.
Oregon (27-8) wasn’t too concerned with the seeding chatter, going out and taking care of business by the final score of 68-55 in a Midwest region game in San Jose. With the victory the Ducks advance to take on 4-seed Saint Louis Saturday.
Damyean Dotson led four Ducks in double figures with 17 points but the game was won on the glass, as Oregon out-rebounded Oklahoma State 47-34 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. Arsalan Kazemi, playing in his first NCAA tournament game, accounted for 17 of those boards while also scoring 11 points.
Neither team shot particularly well from the field, with Oregon shooting 39.0% and the Cowboys not much better at 40.4%, meaning the team that took advantage of second-chance opportunities would come out on top.
Markel Brown (16 points) and Marcus Smart (14) led Oklahoma State offensively but those two needed a combined 29 shots (11 made field goals) to score those points. Oregon kept Smart from getting into the lane consistently, and with their best players struggling to find quality looks Oklahoma State found itself in trouble as the game wore on.
With Saint Louis on the horizon the issue the Ducks need to remedy is the same one that sprouted up when freshman point guard Dominic Artis went down during Pac-12 play with a foot injury: turnovers. Oregon turned the ball over 17 times against Oklahoma State, which fell short despite scoring 20 points off of those turnovers.
Given how well Saint Louis has played on both ends of the floor, Oregon can’t afford to be as reckless with the basketball if they’re to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.