USA TODAY Sports
Underestimating this Oregon team has served no one right all year and the NCAA making it a 12 seed falls into that same category. Then again, as soon as you think they'll go further than they can, they'll let you down as well. It was the best of seeds and the worst of seeds by the NCAA Committee.
The rational and logical Duck fans (which there are few and far between) saw the #12 that the NCAA gave this team as a blessing in disguise. If you put the Ducks at #8 and they win, they're facing a #1 team in the second round (screw you NCAA that's still considered the second round) and most likely out of the tourney. If you put them any higher, they're playing on the East Coast or somewhere far away from their home and they still have just as difficult a match up as they have in the second round as a #12 seed right now.
Then again, putting them at a #12 seed, puts this team in a familiar position that they have been in all year.
Starting the Pac 12 season most pundits had them picked anywhere from 5th to 7th in the Pac 12. This bag of mismatched parts thrown together at the last minute with newbies, transfers and escapees all as one shouldn't and won't compete for the Pac 12 title. Well that didn't stop them. Not only did they compete for the Pac 12 conference title, but this band of misfits came one win away from pulling it off and took the conference tourney rather handily.
That makes this the best of times. This team knows how to win when no one expects them to. This team knows how to bring the energy, the excitement and the passion when the other team on the sideline thinks they're the favorite going away. They did it against Arizona, UNLV, Ucla and Ucla again. Show this team some disrespect and you'll see what they are made of, and then some. I don't know what it is, but when this team has any inkling that they are not favored, they focus better. They concentrate on the job at hand, take care of the ball, do what they do best (rebound and play defense) and pull out victories.
I can really only think of one time this year where Oregon went into the game as popular underdog and didn't pull it out (Cincinnati).
That also makes this the worst of times. Many people are picking this game to be the upset of the first round. Pundits look at the fact that Oregon is undervalued and realize everything I said and know that this 5-12 match up is an upset made in heaven. Oh isn't it great to call those early round upsets! And this one seems tailor made.
Popular belief at this point is that the Ducks are no longer underdogs. The combination of their recent play, the slight of the NCAA, and the placement of them as the popular 5-12 upset so close to home, makes them a favorite to move on to the second round. That is the worst thing possible for this team. Don't given them hope, don't let them think they have another day to live, question everything about them.
That is where they are at home. That is where they thrive.
I don't know if the Ducks will make it to the second round, much less the sweet sixteen. I know their path is easier if they win their first game than had they been a 6, 7, 8 or 9 seed, but that doesn't matter to this team. I love the fact that they don't care about their seeding, even though I know internally they do, because I know it will drive them to be the best they can be.