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Oregon’s Next Stop: The 2017 Final Four

That “one shining moment” is getting closer for Ducks

Oregon v Kansas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It is the year 2017 and the Oregon Ducks are heading to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. Sorry, I just had to remind myself again.

UO’s last trip was 78 years ago during the magical championship season of 1939, as part of the first-ever NCAA Tournament. The 77 years was the longest drought between appearances in college basketball history.

Oregon’s 33 wins in 2016-17 are the MOST in program history. Nevertheless, the players want more. That ‘39 Championship banner is getting lonely at Matthew Knight Arena.

“We never been there, but we’re not done yet,” said Tyler Dorsey. “We want to put the banner up. There is only one banner at Oregon. They sleep on the west coast. We’re competitors. We love this game.”

Over 24 hours removed from Oregon’s dismantling of No. 1 Kansas, most are still in disbelief. If you woke up on Sunday and thought you were still dreaming, join the club. This is the best case of the "Monday’s” I have suffered from in my life.

Oregon v Kansas
Want an easy two points? Not so fast with Jordan Bell hanging around. The incredible athlete from California dominated the Elite Eight, forcing the No. 1 seed Kansas to pack their bags prematurely. Fortunately for KU, they were just 40 miles from home.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jordan Bell’s game in the Elite Eight will go down as one of the greatest individual performances in college basketball history. He carried the Ducks defensively, setting a school record with eight blocked shots in a single game. What more can we say about this super-human athlete?

He also thanked the Oregon Women’s Basketball team for their recent accomplishments, alongside UO track. How can someone NOT love this kid? Well, I can imagine why Kansas people wouldn't like him, but seriously this should be like Rocky IV in Russia. I was waiting to see KU fans collectively give JB a standing ovation after the game, but sadly that didn't happen.

“The guy that changed the game more than anything was Jordan Bell,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self.

For his incredible display this tournament, he was awarded the Most Outstanding Player following Saturday’s massive victory. It’s not that he received the honor, but it’s how he handled receiving the great accomplishment. His modesty only endears us to him more.

The Long Beach native is Oregon’s all-time leader in NCAA Tournament rebounds (98) and blocked shots (28). He’s also the all-time leader (229) in blocked shots in program history.

He and Chris Boucher helped Oregon break the NCAA all-time record for blocked shots in a season this year with 241. Duck fans everywhere were excited to erase the previous mark held by the 2015-16 Washington Huskies (224).

However, that doesn’t do any real justice to the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year’s presence on the floor. Not only the “big men” feel Bell looming around the proverbial corner.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham entered play ablaze. He was averaging 20 points per game in the tournament and wasn’t missing from deep. On Saturday, Graham was held to three points on 0-for-7 shooting. He missed all six attempts from behind the arc.

Every time Graham attempted a shot, he knew he couldn’t miss or Bell would secure the board. The freedom that made Kansas great this season was nonexistent on Saturday because JB was imposing his will.

Frank Mason III can also attest. The 5-foot-11 guard entered the contest as the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. He lived up to the hype in the first half, tallying a game-high 17 points. At one point, Mason had scored 15 straight points for Kansas. Yet, things changed once Bell started making his presence known.

In the second half, Mason was limited to four points, four! He finished with a team-high for the Jayhawks, but the offense was forced to adjust their collective mindset in the final 20 minutes.

“I'm disappointed for them more than I am for me,” Self said. “But the one thing that happened today, and it's hard to admit, the best team did win.”

Jordan Bell was not ONLY blocking shots at a high rate, but he was altering KU attempts on nearly every possession. That goes unnoticed by most, yet Oregon fans have been watching this unfold for three years now. The only difference on Saturday was it was on a national stage.

Bell had four rejections in each half. Kansas could not answer.

How many times did you see someone from Kansas drive the lane, then float a shot toward the rim? That is an altered shot.

At one point, Graham unchrarcterically hoisted up an air ball while driving the lane. Some ask, how is that possible? Well, when he was driving the lane, Bell made a false jab step toward him and DG flinched first. He arched his shot higher than normal and didn't connect with the rim on his lone attempt of the game that was not from 3-point territory. We know why he wasn’t penetrating the Oregon defense consistently.

Anytime someone defers from their normal routine, they are thinking about that monster in the post. It changed the game and disrupted KU’s plans of winning a national title.

Oregon v Kansas
The frontrunner for National Player of the Year, Frank Mason III, was denied by Jordan Bell on Saturday night from the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Bell dictated the tempo of the game with his aggressive nature. He disrupted or altered shots with just his mere presence around the rim.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Casey Benson worked the floater to success over the highly-touted freshman, Josh Jackson. However, Kansas doesn’t possess the same defensive threat as the Ducks, so Benson threw his shot up with confidence and made it. Mindset was the difference between these two teams entering their contest.

“All the guys the last seven years at Oregon helped us build this,” said Dana Altman. “I feel really happy for all of them. They fought it so hard, I’m so happy for them. It’s a great group of guys. Couldn't be happier for them.”

Don’t look now but another No. 1 seed is awaiting Oregon. This time, the lengthy, athletic North Carolina Tar Heels stand in their way.

At the start of the tournament, I mentioned two teams that posed a real threat to the Duck style. Louisville was eliminated by Michigan, then the Ducks sent them packing. No need to worry about Rick Pitino, but Roy Williams and UNC are still alive and they pose a mismatch for Oregon.

Don’t worry, I will break it all down for you this week. Stick around for the exciting Final Four festivities ahead, including our Oregon vs North Carolina coverage and much more! It is a great time to be a Duck.

Next up for No. 3 Oregon (33-5) is No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) in the 2017 Final Four. Tip is set for 5:49 p.m. PT from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Saturday. UO is seeking their first title appearance in 78 years. The game will be televised by CBS.

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