For the first time in program history, people were picking the Ducks to win a national championship entering the 2016-17 season. Even Lindy’s Magazine projected Oregon as their overall No. 1 team. Additionally, UO had never been predicted to win the Pac-12 before this year.
Understandably, the bandwagon is getting lighter after the loss of Chris Boucher. Yet, Oregon still has all the tools to win it all. It will be tougher now, but UO has an experienced and talented group. They never die without a fight.
Let’s take a look at the similarities between 2016 Villanova and 2017 Oregon.
THE VILLANOVA FACTOR
The Ducks must move forward and thankfully March Madness is predicated on guard play. Do yourself a favor and look at the 2016 Villanova roster. The same team that was crowned NCAA Champs last year. Better yet, allow me.
A GIANT AMONG GUARDS
Daniel Ochefu was the ONLY full-time player on their team that was above 6-feet, 7-inches tall. The 6-foot, 11-inch Wildcat forward worked brilliantly with a guard-heavy attack during their unprecedented run toward the title.
Oregon Wildcats: Jordan Bell (6’9”) and 6-foot, 11-inch Kavell Bigby-Williams. Roman Sorkin (6’10”) if necessary. Four guards and the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is the most-likely scenario for a majority of this tournament. Bell has been making it work all season.
Josh Hart (15.5), Kris Jenkins (13.6), Ryan Arcidiacono (12.5) and Ochefu (10.0). Nova, like Oregon, had four players that averaged 10 points per game or more. Four of their five top scorers were guards.
Oregon Wildcats: Dillon Brooks (16.3), Tyler Dorsey (13.3), Dylan Ennis (11.0) and Bell (10.7). Payton Pritchard (7.5) is their fifth-leading scorer, and fourth among Duck guards. (Boucher not included).
They used a 7-man rotation late last season. At times, if foul trouble or tempo would dictate, they would extend to an eight or 9-man rotation.
Oregon Wildcats: The Ducks currently possess an identical 7-man, but at times it can shift to an eight or 9-man when Sorkin or Keith Smith enter the fold.
The Wildcats lost by two points to Seton Hall, 69-67, in the Big East Tournament Championship. Most “experts” say teams who lose their tournament title fail in March.
Oregon Wildcats: Arizona 83, Oregon 80 in Pac-12 Tournament finale.
Not only do these teams share statistical similarities, but they have a player in common. Oregon senior Dylan Ennis played for Villanova for two seasons from 2013-15. In his second year with the team, the Canadian playmaker averaged 10.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.0 SPG for the Cats. He shot .481 from the field during his junior season.
Oregon Wildcats: After a horrific injury enabled him a sixth year of eligibility, Ennis has been instrumental to the Ducks’ success in his second season with the team. The leader has recorded 11.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.1 SPG for Oregon this campaign. Incredibly, Ennis is shooting exactly the same from the floor (.481) during his second year with the Ducks in 2016-17.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright started coaching in 1994 with Hofstra and had never won a national championship before 2016.
Oregon Wildcats: Dana Altman started coaching just five years earlier in 1989 at Marshall. He has never won a national title.
Josh Hart is a National Player of the Year candidate, alongside basically reserving a 1st Team All-American spot. Last season, then junior, like Dillon Brooks is currently, averaged eerily similar numbers to the Canadian finisher.
Hart registered 15.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.2 SPG while leading the charge for the Wildcats. The Wooden finalist led the Cats in scoring, but allowed teammates to shine in his spotlight, like Brooks. Hart was named 2016-17 Big East Player of the Year.
Oregon Wildcats: The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and 1st Team All-Pac-12 member has amassed 16.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.2 SPG while leading his Duck team in 2016-17. The buzzer-beater junkie has led his team to last-second wins on three separate occasions.
SEMISONIC “CLOSING TIME”
The 2016 Villanova Wildcats were the ONLY team in college basketball history to win the national title on a game-winning buzzer-beater 3-pointer. Jenkins was their second-leading scorer entering the game. He exited as a cult hero.
Oregon Wildcats: Thanks to Mr. Brooks and his heroics, this 2016-17 Oregon team leads the nation in buzzer-beating wins. Coincidently, all three game-winners were 3-pointers by Brooks.
NOTHING REGULAR ABOUT DOMINANCE
Nova entered the 2016 NCAA Tournament with their best record in program history, prior to the 2017 season. They also won their regular season crown but failed to win tournament title, sound familiar? Did I mention their record was 29-5 overall and 16-2 in conference entering March Madness? Starting to believe? They were also the No. 1 seed in their conference tournament.
Oregon Wildcats: Thus far, this is the greatest single-season in Duck basketball history. Oregon is 29-5 currently and finished 16-2 in the Pac-12. The Ducks claimed their second straight regular season championship. UO entered their conference tournament as the No. 1 seed.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE TEAM
At this time last year, Villanova attacked the tournament with the No. 4 RPI. Their SOS (strength of schedule) was No. 25 in the nation. Nova averaged 77.6 points per game and allowed just 65.9 to opponents. VU recorded 34.6 RPG, 15.9 APG and 3.4 BPG.
Oregon Wildcats: The Ducks currently enter the tournament with the No. 9 RPI rank and UO is No. 35 for SOS. Oregon averages 79.1 points a night, while yielding just 65 points per contest. The Ducks rip down 39.2 RPG, dish out 16.4 dimes and block 6.6 shots per game.
SEEDING MEANS NOTHING
Villanova was an overlooked No. 2 seed outside their backyard in the South region.
Oregon Wildcats: The Ducks are an underestimated No. 3 seed trapped in the Midwest region.
DEFYING THE ODDS
Are you ready for the scariest part? The 2015-16 Villanova Wildcats had 25/1 odds of winning the national championship by Las Vegas.
Oregon Wildcats: After the injury to their star, Oregon dropped from 12/1 odds to 25/1 odds of winning the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
If that doesn’t give you some pause on your bracket, I don’t know what will.
The tournament started and Nova began streaking like no other team in NCAA history. Never mind their size, the guards were the story of the tournament. If you look at this 2017 Oregon team, the similarities are clearly undeniable.