No. 3 Oregon is on their way to the Sweet 16, thanks in large part to sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. The Los Angeles native is averaging 23.6 points per game in his last five. Needless to say, he’s helped guide the Ducks to wins in 10 of their last 11 contests.
The last five games happen to be in the postseason. Dorsey certainly saved his best for last. His top performances this season have occurred in the Pac-12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. That is no coincidence.
Merely 24 hours removed from the Ducks’ huge comeback on the big stage of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Quack Nation is still buzzing. In the past, when speaking of “hero,” only one name came to mind = Dillon Brooks. However, over the course of the last month, a new star has emerged for the Webfoots.
For the season, Dorsey is shooting a ridiculous 40 percent (74-for-184) from downtown and 46 percent overall (153-for-347) from the field. Thus far, he has registered 74 percent from the charity stripe.
Dorsey scored a game-high 27 points on Sunday against No. 11 Rhode Island. It is becoming a common theme for the Greek International lately. When talking to him, you don’t get the feeling he’s thinking about anything but the current moment and his teammates. That was never more evident than on Sunday night. Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us.
“It was just a great moment for us,” said Dorsey. “They put the ball in my hands and I just made big shots. We came together as a team in the second half when we got stops and rebounds. I’m just happy to move on, it was a tough one.”
This is not the same Dorsey you witnessed last season. In fact, this is not the same player we watched in Eugene around mid-January. The guard is making strides to not become one of the best players on the team, but the best player on the floor.
“He was attacking the rim like a beast and was keeping us in the game,” said Dillon Brooks after Sunday’s affair. “He’s stepping up his game. He’s locked in, he’s focused. I knew he always had it in him. I been telling him all year he’s our x-factor. He can be one of the best players on the floor. Everyone has the most trust in him. He led us today.”
Last season, it was quite the opposite tale for the 6-foot, 4-inch assassin. During Oregon’s 2015-16 NCAA Tournament run, Dorsey averaged just 10.25 PPG over the Ducks’ 4-game March Madness stretch.
To feel his impact even more this season, Dorsey missed 27 shots in last years tournament run to the Elite Eight. On Sunday, he missed just one shot, one! He was 9-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-5 from 3-point territory. Oregon needed every bucket.
“I was joking with him, ‘9 for 10? How did you miss that one shot?’” Dana Altman said with a smile. “Tyler really finished our plays for us, but it’s a team effort.”
It is not his torrid shooting stroke that we’re celebrating. It is Dorsey’s growth and maturity as a player and person. He is no longer settling for only “3-pointers,” his game is evolving. Dorsey has begun to drive the lane and draw fouls like all the big stars do on a regular basis. Instead of empty possessions, TD is making the most on every play.
Click link to watch Tyler Dorsey drain game-winning bucket from downtown with 38.5 seconds against No. 11 Rhode Island.
On more than three occasions on Sunday alone, Dorsey pump-faked his defender then drove to the lane with aggression. He was rewarded routinely; multiple times with an easy bucket and nine times he was awarded with a shot from the charity stripe.
“It’s a 40-minute fight and we played it until the end,” Dorsey said. “It’s never over.”
When the lights are at their brightest, Dorsey plays his best basketball.
“They call him Mr. March. When March comes around, he’s a different breed,” said Dylan Ennis. “He’s playing smart basketball, better basketball. I don’t think he’s doing anything different. Around this time, he comes into his own and I don’t complain.”
This season, he is averaging 14.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 1.8 APG for the school-record 31-5 Ducks. Like teammate Chris Boucher, Dorsey is unbeaten at Matthew Knight Arena during his 2-year career. He has an impressive record of 35-0 in Eugene.
However, it is his impact that must be acknowledged. Like Brooks mentioned, Dorsey is the key to their success as the ‘x-factor’ of the team. When he struggles, the team usually doesn’t win. But when his game in on, Oregon is as unbeatable as anyone.
Here is Tyler Dorsey’s production during UO’s five losses this season:
L #1 - 9 @ Baylor
L #2 - 2 vs Georgetown (Maui Invite)
L #3 - 9 @ Colorado
L #4 - 19 @ UCLA (hometown)
L #5 - 23 vs Arizona in Pac-12 Tournament Final
Dorsey averaged 12.4 points per contest. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for that UCLA game in his home of LA, he would almost be looking at a single-digit average. His value is amplified in Oregon’s losses.
Altman reminded everyone that he needed more from them moving forward in the tournament without Boucher. Dorsey has obliged by averaging 25.5 PPG in two NCAA Tournament games, alongside five straight games of 20 points or more. It’s the most crucial time of the year and he wants the ball in his hands. You can’t teach that.
Dorsey has also stepped up his defensive involvement. In Oregon’s two tournament games this season, the sophomore is averaging five boards per night. Additionally, Dorsey added three stolen passes on Sunday vs URI. TD’s defensive effort has transitionally unleashed more confidence in his offensive game.
It’s a great problem to have when you possess two unselfish superstars on your team who want to make everyone better, including themselves. Brooks and Dorsey combined for 46 points against No. 11 Rhode Island. They will need to continue the recent trend.
If Oregon wants to continue this season minus Boucher, it is going to be on the shoulders of Brooks and Dorsey. The Ducks prepare for a scorching hot No. 7 Michigan team on Thursday afternoon at 4:09 p.m. PT from Kansas City, Missouri.