Sunday March 13th, 2016

Oregon easily won the Pac-12 tournament championship game late Saturday night, kicking Utah all over the floor in an 88–57 win. It’s the Ducks’ second conference tournament title in the last four years.

Here are three quick thoughts following the blowout:

Oregon will cruise into the NCAA tournament

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Talk about peaking at the right time. The Ducks are playing their best basketball of the season heading into March Madness and have put themselves in a terrific position to get all the way to the Final Four. After a disastrous trip to the Bay Area in mid-February, when the Ducks dropped back-to-back games to Cal and Stanford, Oregon is riding an eight-game winning streak. 

The Ducks shot 51.6% from the field Saturday, including 58.6% in the second half. But what’s even crazier was the volume of shots: Oregon took 64 field goals compared to Utah’s 44. It built a 38–21 lead in the first half, rattling off an 18-3 run over a seven minute stretch and Utah never recovered. It forced Utah into 20 turnovers, and scored 28 points off those takeaways. It dominated the boards, 36-25, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds to score 23 second chance points. At one point, the Ducks led by 36. Oregon was spectacularly good, though somewhat boring for the 12,916 hoping to watch a competitive game.

“It was not the game we anticipated,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman, “but we got on a roll.”

On Friday after Oregon survived Arizona 95–89 in the semifinals, Wildcats coach Sean Miller gushed about Oregon’s offense, saying that if you put the Ducks on a neutral floor against any team in the country, they’re going to give opposing coaches plenty of headaches because pretty much no one matches up with them. He pointed especially to the play of guard Tyler Dorsey, who finished with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting Saturday.

Saturday, the Ducks backed up everything Miller said. And because of that …

Oregon should be a No. 1 seed

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Are you still awake over there on the east coast? If you stayed up for Oregon’s dismantling of Utah, you came away knowing the Ducks absolutely pass the eye test as one of the top four teams in the country. They’re deserving of a seed that proves it. Their resume speaks for itself: Oregon has a regular season and conference tournament championship in one of the toughest leagues in the country, and is 10–3 against the RPI Top 50. Also of note: Oregon went 6-1 against the next three teams in the Pac-12 in Utah, Cal and Arizona.

Villanova lost, which opens up a spot. Don’t believe the argument that UNC and Virginia should be No. 1 seeds. Trust that the selection committee stayed up despite the late 10 p.m. EST tip and saw Oregon’s domination. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said seeding teams isn’t part of his job description, but offered this: “I wouldn’t want to play them.”

Utah still has plenty of work to do on offense

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Credit Oregon, which is long on the perimeter, regarding Utah’s 20 turnovers. But the Utes need to accept some of the blame, too. Utah was careless at times against a long, athletic team, and didn’t move the ball as crisply as it could have. Utah lives and dies with Jakob Poeltl, the league’s player of the year. He is one of the best big men in the country, and a likely NBA lottery pick. Most people can’t stop Poeltl. But if Utah can’t get the ball to him, he can’t be unstoppable.

Poeltl played 19 minutes in the first half, and touched the ball 13 times in the paint. Three other times the Utes threw it away on an entry pass. Poeltl (4-of-6 from the field, 13 points) could never get going, so his teammates couldn’t either. Point guard Brandon Taylor (eight points, four turnovers, two assists) said afterward the Utes “probably took too long to get it to him, [and we were] probably trying to making a safe pass” instead of feeding him early. “You’ve gotta take care of the ball if you want to be part of something elite,” Taylor said. Utah has to figure out a solution, and soon.

Krystkowiak isn’t ready to panic yet. If anything, he put a positive spin on the blowout by saying, “I like being humbled before the biggest phase of the season starts.”

 

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