Where have we heard this before?
Oregon plays Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament.
They played their way into the Big Dance and earned a 12 seed with their 68-48 win over Washington last night. Now the Ducks will have to know their way to San Jose to face the 5-seed Badgers with the winner playing either No. 4 Kansas State or No. 13 UC-Irvine.
These two teams have been strange bedfellows where the NCAA tournament is concerned. Oregon and Wisconsin have faced each other two before in 2014 and in 2015 with the Badgers coming out on top in both occasions. Wisconsin took second round games from the Ducks by the scores of 72-65 (2015) in Omaha and 85-77 (2014) in Milwaukee, a virtual home game for the Badgers.
The Ducks also faced Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and in 2002, Oregon was sent to the Madison Regional in the Sweet 16 and lost to Kansas in the Elite 8 on Wisconsin’s home floor.
So in other words, there’s some history here.
This time, however, it’ll be the Badgers who will be forced to travel to the West Coast.
Wisconsin finished the regular season 23-10 and finished in fourth place of the Big Ten. The Badgers lost in the conference semifinal to eventual tournament champion Michigan State 67-55. Before that loss, Wisconsin was winners of six of its last seven.
Besides having a familiar opponent, Ducks coach Dana Altman expressed some relief that his team plays on Friday given the hectic schedule they’ve been faced will lately.
“I am happy about that (playing on Friday). We just played four games and if we played on Thursday, we’d be already traveling on Tuesday,” he said. “It is finals week, so we have a lot of things to take care of this week
As far as the game itself, Oregon will be concerned with the Badgers’ 6-10 forward Ethan Happ, who leads the Badgers in scoring (17.5 ppg), rebounds (10.1 rpg), assists (4.6 apg) and steals (1.1 spg).
Other than Happ, however, Wisconsin can be quite ordinary. They averages 69 points a game and give up 61 per game. Given the Ducks’ emerging defensive, this game is going to be a close, low-scoring affair.
If Oregon collapses to defend Happ, the Badgers do have shooters on the outside that can cause havoc. D’Mitrik Trice leads the team with 74 threes on the season and shot 40 percent from long range while averaging nearly 12 points per contest.
The other three-point shooter the Ducks have to pay attention to is Brad Davison. He has made 54 threes and shot at a 36.6 percent clip.
Wisconsin’s biggest win came Jan. 19 when they upset a then No. 2 Michigan 64-54, but then lost to the Wolverines three weeks later 61-52.
Just getting to think of ways of how to beat a 5 seed in the NCAA tournament would have been a pipe dream for the Ducks a month ago. The team was reeling and even making the NIT might have been questionable. But the Ducks buckled down on defense and because of that, they’re winners of eight straight, the Pac-12 tourney champs and are now looking to make waves in the Big Dance.
“We’re pleased with what we’ve accomplished, but in no means are we satisfied,” Altman said. “We’ve underachieved and to make that up is to make a great run here.”+
~ Don Smalley