MARCH MADNESS IS FINALLY HERE!
Here’s all you need to know about the matchup between 7-seed Oregon and 10-seed VCU.
When: 3/20, Saturday, 6:57 PM PT
Where: Indianapolis, Indiana
Why: Because it’s March Madness! Duh!
THE OREGON DUCKS (20-6, 14-4): No. 36 (Kenpom)
After a season full of injury and breaks in the schedule due to COVID-19, Oregon appeared to have their Ducks in a row when they wrapped up the regular season on a hot streak that resulted in them winning the PAC-12 regular season title.
However, their surprising loss to the Oregon State Beavers in the PAC-12 Tournament semifinal ended Oregon’s impressive run on a sour note. But if we know one thing about Dana Altman’s Ducks it’s that they get better as the season goes on.
Oregon’s three leading scorers — LJ Figueroa, Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte — are in fighting form and ready to make a run in the tournament, and with Will Richardson fully healthy and ready to orchestrate the offense only a fool would count out Dana’s Ducks.
THE VCU RAMS (19-7, 10-4): No. 45 (Kenpom)
Before the season began, the VCU Rams were picked to finish 9th in the A-10, now fans of the Rams are naming their brackets “The 9th picked Rams” in mockery of the so-called experts.
The Rams are led by Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, their dynamic sophomore playmaker that is averaging a conference-high 19.5 points per game and is hitting 37 percent of his shots from three-point land. He’s got NBA talent and is one of the most exciting players in the tournament.
But if VCU hopes to pull away from Oregon in this one they’ll likely need to find another scorer to take some pressure off Bones. Keep an eye on Vince Williams (10.6 PPG), who could be called upon to help lead the offense for the Rams.
What (to watch for): VCU is heavily reliant on their defense having a dominant performance, a defense which is currently ranked 12th in Kenpom. If the contest ends in a Rams victory it will no doubt be because they were able to keep it a low-scoring affair and Bones was able to put together another impressive performance.
That being said, the Ducks are pretty quacking good at coming out on top in close games, and should they avoid the shooting slump that plagued them in their last outing then it’s quite possible (if not likely) that Oregon will be able to outpace the Rams with some clutch three-point shooting.
Tyler Cronin (no relation to Mick Cronin) of the 3 Bid League Podcast (an excellent pod that covers all the teams in the A-10) joined me on the Quack-12 Podcast to preview the game. During the interview, Cronin said,
“The VCU pressure is really the staple of what is a fantastic defense. If anyone wants to go dive into the box scores of any of their three games against Dayton and see what they did against that pretty good offense. That was all pressure. They were in the face of their senior guards all game, made them wildly uncomfortable.
And they’re gonna try that at first. They’re gonna really try and force turnovers. Really try to make the Ducks uncomfortable, because that’s how they start with everybody.”
If Oregon’s playmakers are confident and sink their shots early, it shouldn’t be a problem for the Ducks. However, if the Ducks come out slow, like they have against some of the PAC-12’s best teams, then we could be looking at an early Rams lead and an uphill battle for the NCAA’s first national champion.
Despite their poor showing in their last contest, we’ll put our trust in Altman and say the Ducks squeak out a win in this one and go on to face Iowa. Though I’d stay away from your bookie in this one, unless you like sweating it out until the final seconds.
Ducks 71 - Rams 65
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