USA TODAY Sports
Its a matchup of two elite defenses as Oregon takes on St. Louis in third round NCAA Tournament action.
It only gets more difficult.
Oregon controlled the entire game in their first NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma State, but now face a St. Louis team that has won 17 of its past 18 games, including three wins over Butler and two wins over VCU in that stretch. The matchup is one of two elite defenses--the Ducks come into the game ranked No. 17 nationally in defensive efficiency (90.5), while the Billikens rank No. 8, at 88.8. Given two fairly mediocre offenses, point are likely to be at a premium in this matchup.
While the game features two elite defenses, the big difference that jumps off the page is the difference in pace that the two teams want to play at. We know Oregon wants to push the ball and score in transition, whereas St. Louis wants a slow down, grind it out game. Given Oregon's woes in the halfcourt offense, it's going to be more difficult to win that kind of matchup, so dictating the tempo of the game will be key.
Much like the Oklahoma State game, dominating the glass will be a big part of the game plan. The Ducks finished +14 on the boards against Oklahoma State. Oregon ranks 16th in the country in rebounding, grabbing boards on nearly 55% of all missed shots. St. Louis ranks 197th, at less than 50%. This serves as not only an extension of the defense by limiting second chance points, but allows Oregon to push offensively, and get easy put back points on shots that their half court offense won't allow them to get.
Offensively, St. Louis is patient, and often works deep into the shot clock. They shoot a lot of threes, and seven players averages two or more three-point attempts per game. Forward Dwayne Evans has been their best player, and averages 14 points per game, while Cody Ellis and Kwamiam Mitchell average 10.3 apiece. St. Louis goes nine deep, so this is one of the few games where Oregon won't have a major depth advantage.
This is probably the best opponent Oregon has yet faced this season. However, the Ducks have been playing very well lately, much closer to the top ten team that they were earlier in the season. If Oregon can dominate the boards the way they did against Oklahoma State, and push the pace when given the opportunity to get easy buckets in transition, I like their chances. If not, or if St. Louis decisively wins the turnover battle, the season could end today.
Time: 4:10 PT