The first weekend of the NCAA tournament wasn’t particularly kind to the Pac-12, as six of their seven entrants were eliminated. The lone team standing was Oregon, the top seed in the West and the best team the Pac-12 had to offer. Dana Altman’s team has the athleticism and versatility needed to make its way to Houston, and Thursday night those attributes along with the team’s willingness to pass the ball was on display in their 82-68 win over No. 4 Duke.
Dillon Brooks led five Ducks in double figures with 22 points while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out six assists, and as a team Oregon assisted on 22 of its 38 made field goals. Oregon can attack teams in a variety of ways offensively thanks to the versatility of players such as Brooks, Elgin Cook and Tyler Dorsey, and if not for a number of missed dunks the margin Thursday night would have been worse.
Duke’s had issues defensively due in large part to their lack of depth, which makes it difficult to shift strategies when one approach isn’t working. Duke went zone for part of the second half, and Oregon managed to find quality looks though sound ball movement and player movement off the basketball.
Oregon finished the game shooting 49.2 percent from the field, but they were much better on that end of the floor in the game’s final 20 minutes.
And of all the offensive options at Altman’s disposal the one who doesn’t receive enough credit is sophomore point guard Casey Benson, whose improvement throughout the season has been a key for Oregon. Almost deferential to a fault when it came to taking open shots at the start of the year, Benson’s been better as the season’s progressed at picking his spots while continuing to distribute the ball in an efficient manner.
Against Duke, Benson finished with 11 points, eight assists and just one turnover. That one turnover raised Benson’s total for the season to 23, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is a very good 4.65:1. The injured Dylan Ennis was expected to be the man at the point when the season began, but the play of Benson has ensured that Oregon did not miss a beat this season.
Oregon has an eight-man rotation that appears to be even deeper thanks to their versatility, and against Duke the Ducks took advantage of that throughout the night. The offense was good but so was the defense, with Jordan Bell (13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks) and Chris Boucher serving as deterrents at the rim and the changes between man and a matchup zone keeping the Blue Devils off balance.
They’ll need a similar effort against Oklahoma Saturday, but there should be no more questions as to whether or not Oregon’s capable.