Dillon Brooks

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No. 8 Oregon holds on for 95-89 OT win over No. 15 Arizona

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Elgin Cook scored 22 points and No. 8 Oregon survived a wild closing sequence in regulation to beat No. 15 Arizona 95-89 in overtime Friday night in the Pac-12 semifinals.

Oregon (27-6) led by 17 early in the second half, but Arizona (25-8) charged back and tied it in improbable fashion.

Oregon’s Chris Boucher missed two free throws with 12 seconds left, and Arizona’s Gabe York followed with a 3-pointer after gathering a rebound. Mark Tollefsen stole the inbound pass and was fouled, but hit just 1 of 2 free throws to send the game to overtime.

The Ducks dominated overtime, going up six on 3-pointers by Dwayne Benjamin and Dillon Brooks to earn a spot in Saturday night’s championship game against No. 24 California or No. 12 Utah.

Tyler Dorsey had 19 points and Brooks 17 for the Ducks, who had 11 blocked shots and 10 steals.

No. 8 Oregon holds off Washington 83-77 at Pac-12

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Chris Boucher had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 8 Oregon withstood a late flurry to hold off Washington 83-77 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

Top-seeded Oregon (26-6) built an 11-point lead midway through the second half, but Andrew Andrews brought the Huskies back with a quick scoring flurry. The senior guard scored 10 of his 19 points during the run, helping eighth-seeded Washington (18-14) pull within two late.

The Ducks held, though, hitting four free throws in the final 33 seconds to earn a spot in Friday night’s semifinals against No. 15 Arizona or Colorado.

Elgin Cook scored 19 points, Tyler Dorsey 17 and Dillon Brooks added 15 for the Ducks.

Marques Chriss scored 19 points for the Huskies.

The Ducks closed the regular season strong, winning their final five games for their first conference title since 2002. One of those finishing wins was against Washington on Feb. 28, when Cook scored 26 points in the 86-73 victory.

The Huskies put a dent in their NCAA Tournament hopes by limping to the finish, but kept a glimmer of hope alive with a rout over Stanford in the tournament’s opening round.

Washington got off to fast start against the Cardinal and kept rolling against Oregon, hitting 10 of its first 13 shots – four of those 3s – to go up 26-14.

Oregon was ragged early, forcing shots and passes in traffic, riling coach Dana Altman with numerous defensive breakdowns.

The Ducks settled down and started flying, harassing the Huskies into difficult shots, scoring in transition after turnovers and misses during an 11-0 run that helped them take a 39-38 halftime lead.

But after all the 3-pointers and soaring dunks, the second half turned into a defensive wrestling match, with bodies hitting the floor nearly every trip.

The Ducks gained a little separation midway through, when Dorsey hit a 3 and Dwayne Benjamin scored on a three-point play to put Oregon up 64-54.

Andrews brought the Huskies back. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and turned a steal into a pair of free throws that cut Oregon’s lead to 71-69 with 5 minutes left.

Washington kept the Ducks within reach from there, but never could catch them.

TIP INS

Washington: David Crisp, who made just four 3-pointers February, had three in the first half. … Dejounte Murray and Malik Dime had 13 points each.

Oregon: Boucher became the first player in Pac-12 history with 100 blocked shots and 30 3-pointers in a season. … The Ducks had a 46-33 rebounding edge.

WHAT’S NEXT

Washington will have to sweat out Selection Sunday to find out if it will get an NCAA Tournament invite.

Oregon will face No. 15 Arizona or Colorado in the semifinals Friday night.

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

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When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

No. 9 Oregon continues to strengthen case for one seed

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Given how unpredictable this season has been, the discussion of which four teams will receive one-seeds in the NCAA tournament has been a lively one. No. 1 Kansas looks to be in good shape, as they’ve won 11 straight games and the outright regular season title in a conference many consider to be the best in the country. After that a number of teams have been mentioned for the top line, and No. 9 Oregon certainly has a good case of their own.

Dana Altman’s Ducks wrapped up the outright Pac-12 regular season title with a 76-66 win at USC Saturday afternoon. Oregon navigated injury issues throughout their non-conference schedule, and against the Trojans they had to navigate a 25-minute delay thanks to a power outage at the Galen Center.

And if those injuries, the most notable of which being Dylan Ennis’ broken foot that ended his season after just two games, couldn’t kill Oregon’s momentum a power outage wasn’t going to either. And the same can be said of the off days experienced by forwards Dylan Brooks and Chris Boucher, who combined for eight points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field.

As has been the case throughout the season, other players stepped forward for Oregon as they fought off a second-half challenge from the Trojans.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey led four Ducks in double figures with 19 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the field, and Elgin Cook added 17 while also grabbing 12 rebounds. And with reserves Dwayne Benjamin and Jordan Bell combining to contribute 24 points and eight rebounds off the bench, Oregon had more than enough to cover for the off days experienced by Brooks and Boucher.

The Ducks have a seven-man rotation, but the versatility possessed by many of those players can make the team appear deeper than they actually are. Brooks, Cook and Benjamin can all score on multiple levels at the forward spots, and Boucher’s even shown the ability to step out away from the basket on occasion. Dorsey’s performed well both on and off the ball in the backcourt, and Casey Benson’s developed into a point guard more willing to take shots that become available to him as the season’s progressed.

That all adds up to a team that is the Pac-12’s best heading into the conference tournament in Las Vegas. And to this point, Oregon’s put together a good case to be on the top line when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed a week from Sunday.

With their win over USC, Oregon’s now 10-3 against the RPI Top 50 (four wins against teams ranked in the RPI Top 25) and their schedule is ranked as the fifth-toughest in the country. As for the losses to UNLV and Boise State (which is an RPI Top 100 team) in non-conference play, Oregon wasn’t at full strength in either game. Both Bell and Dorsey missed the loss to UNLV due to injury, with Bell making his season debut against Boise State while Dorsey remained sidelined.

They have the computer numbers and the quality wins to back those stats up. And if Oregon can win the Pac-12 tournament, they’ll have an even stronger case for a one-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Shot selection, sluggish play costs No. 11 Oregon at Stanford

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Entering this week it appeared as if the question of “who’s the best team in the Pac-12” had a clear answer. No. 11 Oregon sat atop the standings in first place, and with one of the conference’s favorites for Player of the Year in Dillon Brooks leading the way Dana Altman’s Ducks looked to be approaching “elite” status. After the Ducks’ 0-2 weekend in the Bay Area, it’s time to slow down with the “elite” chatter.

Two nights after getting blown out at California the Ducks lost again, this time failing to complete their comeback attempt at Stanford as the Cardinal won 76-72.

Rosco Allen scored 25 points and grabbed seven boards for the Cardinal, shooting 9-for-12 from the field and not struggling all that much to get the looks he preferred. Allen hit shots from all three levels, at the rim, in the mid-range game and from deep, and so did his teammates. As a team Stanford shot 55.3 percent from the field and 9-for-13 from three, with Christian Sanders accounting for ten of the team’s 18 assists and Grant Verhoeven (13 points) and Dorian Pickens (16) chipping in as well.

Oregon, on the other hand, once again got away from the things that have made them so successful offensively. Working to get the best possible shot has worked quite well for the Ducks, given their many offensive options who can score from just about anywhere on the floor. Against Stanford 27 of Oregon’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, far too high a percentage for a team with scoring options such as Brooks, Elgin Cook, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher.

Oregon settled until late in the second half, resulting in a deficit that proved too large to fully erase.

Winning on the road is tough, especially in a conference in which three teams (Arizona, Oregon and Utah) have managed to pick up a road sweep this season. But that can’t result in a team losing sight of what has made it so successful for much of the season. That appeared to be the case for Oregon in their two games in the Bay Area.

The good news for Oregon is that they have the talent needed to ensure that this is but a minor blip on the radar, a weekend that can be used to refocus on what made them the team many pegged as the best in the Pac-12 a week ago. The negative: as a result of this weekend Oregon’s margin for error is now gone, with two-time defending champion Arizona leading the charge.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Big Ten showdown and key bubble battles

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 4 Iowa at Indiana, 9:00 p.m.

As a result of their surprising loss at Penn State Saturday night, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers enter this pivotal contest a game back of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten standings. And with their backloaded conference schedule, this is a game Indiana has to get if they’re to entertain thoughts of winning the Big Ten title. Two of the Big Ten’s best players will be on display in Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, but both have plenty of help behind them offensively.

Iowa’s Peter Jok has been one of the conference’s most improved players, and the Hoosiers can counter not only with forward Troy Williams but with freshman center Thomas Bryant as well. The key in this one: turnovers, as Indiana has lost the ball on more than 20 percent of their possessions in conference play. That can’t happen tonight if they’re to win.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 11 Oregon at California, 9:00 p.m.

The Ducks have been the class of the Pac-12 to this point, but a win in Berkeley won’t come easy. The Golden Bears may not be enjoying the success many expected before the season began, but Cuonzo Martin’s team has won all 14 of its home games this season, most recently whipping rival Stanford last weekend.

The problem for Cal: Tyrone Wallace is still out due to injury, and given Oregon’s many versatile scoring options that’s a problem. Pac-12 POY candidate Dillon Brooks leads the way, but Chris Boucher has emerged as one of the conference’s best big men in recent weeks. Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb and Jordan Mathews will need to come up big, as this is a huge contest for Cal’s NCAA tournament hopes.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  • The top two teams in the Big West get together in Honolulu, as Hawai’i hosts UC Irvine (1:00 a.m.) in the first of their two meetings this season. This will be a matchup of strengths when the Bows have the ball, as they lead the Big West in two-point field goal percentage (54.7) while UC Irvine leads the conference in two-point percentage defense (38.9) thanks in large part to 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye. Hawai’i forward Stefan Jankovic (15.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has been a much-improved player under first-year head coach Eran Ganot, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding.
  • Two ACC teams with matching 6-5 league records meet at the Carrier Dome, as Syracuse hosts Florida State (7:00 p.m.) in a game both teams need for their respective NCAA tournament résumés. Jim Boeheim’s team should be well-rested, as they haven’t played in nine days, and they’ll need that energy to slow down FSU guards Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. The Seminole backcourt is young but talented, and they’ll face two fifth-year seniors in Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney.
  • Picking up a home sweep of Utah and Colorado may have given Oregon State’s NCAA tournament hopes some life, but they really need to go on a run here. Tonight’s game at Stanford (11:00 p.m.) represents a good opportunity for Gary Payton II and company to win their third straight, but the Cardinal did win the first meeting in Corvallis back on January 6. In that game rebounding was the deciding factor (Rosco Allen finished with 21 and eight boards, too), as Stanford grabbed half of their available missed shots. OSU can’t let that happen again.
  • With SMU ineligible for postseason play, the other American Athletic Conference teams are jockeying for position in next month’s conference tournament. Tonight UConn looks to avenge its home loss to Temple January 5 with a win in Philadelphia (7:00 p.m.). Since Amida Brimah’s return the Huskies have played much better basketball, as they have their rim protector and a finisher for Daniel Hamilton’s alley-oop passes back on the court. The Owls have won their last three games, and tonight is their second-best remaining opportunity for a quality win (they play No. 1 Villanova next Wednesday).
  • At this point, no one’s catching Wichita State for the Missouri Valley regular season title without the Shockers collapsing in epic fashion. But when it comes to who can earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, both Illinois State and Evansville have a shot. The two teams meet in Evansville tonight (8:00 p.m.), with three of the Valley’s best players on display in ISU’s DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and Evansville’s D.J. Balentine and Edigijus Mockevicius. Evansville won the first meeting by 11 in mid-January, as the Redbirds shot 6-for-31 from three on the night.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Mercer at Wofford, 7:00 p.m.
  • Hofstra at William & Mary, 7:00 p.m.
  • High Point at Coastal Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
  • James Madison at College of Charleston, 7:00 p.m.
  • Milwaukee at Oakland, 7:00 p.m.
  • Pepperdine at Saint Mary’s, 11:00 p.m.