"If you can't get up for this tournament atmosphere, then I don't know what's wrong with you." -Johnathan Loyd
Oregon and Saint Louis are two teams who got to the tournament through vastly different means. Oregon's much maligned strength of schedule scared away many skeptics as they dropped 5 of 9 games to tournament teams, mainly Colorado and California, earning them little critical respect and a 12 seed. The Ducks troubles were well known, losing freshman Dominick Artis part of the way through the season and the Ducks blew two opportunities to clinch the regular season crown. On the other hand, the Billikens have won 16 of their last 17 and went toe to toe with tournament teams throughout the season, going 8-2, featuring two wins over Butler and VCU alike. Their only losses came at the hands of Kansas and Temple. Conversely, Oregon's only marquee wins came against Arizona, UCLA twice and UNLV on the road.
Both Oregon and Saint Louis rolled in their first tournament game, the Billikens routing an outmanned New Mexico State 64-44. In that game, Dwayne Evans carried over his torrid shooting pace from the conference tournament, scoring 24 points on 11 of 16 shooting from the field. Many of his baskets came from the middle of the key as Saint Louis was able to pound the center of the NMSU zone. Coach Altman was complimentary of Evans before Saturday's game stating, "He's a matchup nightmare. I think we've got to change things up on him...try to keep him off his base a little. We can't let him shoot at the same pace he's at now, 22 points a game and 73%. Those are off the chart numbers." Oregon comes in, having controlled their matchup against Oklahoma State, not trailing for the last 38 minutes of the game en route to a convincing 68-55 win.
Billiken forward Rob Loe mentioned that the Billikens prefer to control the ball and take their time to find the proper shots, which they were able to do Thursday against the Aggies. For them, it's all about getting the right shot and as Coach Altman said, "They know what they want out of their possessions."
For the Ducks offensively they will likely look to push the ball up the floor and play the game at a faster pace than the disciplined Billikens will likely want to play."We're definitely looking to stay aggressive, press and get the game going. Try to get the game up into the 70s and stay true to what we do." Dominick Artis commented and when pressed on what they needed to focus on offensively; he said, "Taking care of the ball, limit turnovers and knock down shots."
Much of what SLU likes to do defensively comes from knowing what their opponent is going to do coming into a game and it's unclear whether they will have the time to go through Oregon's sets to get that knowledge to be as aggressive as they want to be. In their last 5 games, the Billikens have kept their opponents under 60 points and have controlled the tempo, taking 4 of those wins by double digits.
Johnathan Loyd echoed this sentiment when asked what how he was going to handle playing against SLU, "I'm going to pressure the ball and I'm going to push the ball. Two things that I thrive at doing, I'm going to keep doing it and if they are going to try to slow it down, we're going to try to control the tempo and speed it back up. If they pressure full court, my eyes are going to light up because of all the space."
One of the main advantages for the Ducks is on the glass. Saint Louis is going to have to have a full team effort to rebound with the Ducks and Arsalan Kazemi. Conversely, that is where the game can be won for Oregon. With their effort on the offensive glass against the Cowboys, the Ducks were able to shoot the ball more than their opponents and at one point in the game had 17 more attempts than OSU. Oregon should look to repeat that performance against SLU. The Billikens on the other hand, if they can play the game in the 50's like they want and stifle the Oregon offense then it could be a tough game for the Ducks to win.