TBS: Midwest Second Round #3 Oregon vs #11 Rhode Island 4:30pm
Spread: Oregon -5
After dismantling six seed Creighton Blue Jays 84-72 in the first round of the tournament; the Rams move on to face number 3 Oregon in Sacramento in the new Golden 1 Center. This may be one of the most exciting 11 vs 3 match ups in recent memory. Historically No. 11 seeds are 14-28 against No. 3 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. However this matchup is not your typical 3 vs 11 seed matchup. Before Chris Boucher tore his ACL, Oregon was arguably the deepest and most athletic team in the country. The Ducks are coming off an impressive 93-77 victory over Iona. Oregon shot 55.6% from the field and 39.1% (9-23) from beyond the arc in the win. The Pac-12 regular season champions were one of 9 teams in the country to win over 30 games. Even without one of the nation’s best rim protectors, the Oregon squad is still filled with stars such as Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks, and Jordan Bell. This Oregon team could have easily been a two or one seed if they would have won the PAC-12 tournament. Oregon is determined to end the school’s basketball title drought that dates back to 1939.
Comparatively, the Rhode Island Rams are not your normal mid-major 11 seed. The Rams were a preseason Top 25 team and they boast a very talented roster. Leading scorer E.C. Matthews, former Memphis forward Kuran Iverson, guard Jared Terrell and former Indiana guard Stanford Robinson were all top-100 recruits coming out of high school. The Rams have an athletic roster and have a roster with a lot of depth. Rhode Island is one of the best defensive teams allowing just 64.9 points per game and ranked 32nd nationally in defensive efficiency. Alongside the Michigan Wolverines, the Rams are the hottest team left in the tournament. Rhode Island hasn’t lost a game since February 15th home loss to Fordham, and they have been playing with a win to survive mentality for over a month. Rhode Island’s victory over Creighton marked their 9th consecutive victory. Since their A-10 conference opener against St.Bonaventure, the Rams have trailed for a combined 43 seconds in their last four games. The Rams are playing with a confidence and swagger that can’t be measured. The Midwest second round game is a must-watch matchup.
Key’s for Rhode Island: Dan Hurley’s squad is fortunate enough to not have to deal with Oregon big Chris Boucher. Boucher was ranked 25th in the country in individual defensive efficiency, and ranked 10th in individual block percentage. In order to upset Oregon, the Rams are going to have to dictate and control the tempo. Oregon plays a very versatile and up-tempo style of offense. Rhode Island will need to continue to play with fiery energy on the defensive end.The Rams hold opponents to the ninth-lowest field-goal efficiency in college basketball, block shots on the second-most opponent possessions, and force the second-worst 3-point percentage. The Rams defense will be good enough to keep them competitive, but the Rams will need to be able to create consistent offense in order to complete the upset. Oregon is also of the best defensive teams in the nation ranking 22nd in overall defensive efficiency and they are the top shot-blocking team in the nation. However, losing Boucher in the middle makes Oregon more susceptible in the interior. Rhode Island guards need to be aggressive in driving the ball to the rim, and Rhode Island big man Hassan Martin needs to be able to get buckets in the interior. The best way for Rhode Island to have success is to be aggressive in getting the ball to the rim that may result in accumulated fouls on Oregon big men Jordan Bell and Kavell Bigby Williams. In their first round game against Creighton, Rhode Island got to the line 31 times shooting a team total of 90% from the line. Getting Oregon’s big men out of the game and making the Ducks dig into their bench or go small is the best course for a Rhode Island upset.
Key for Oregon: Oregon offense is going to have to its share of problems playing against a scrappy Rhode Island defense. The key for Oregon is to be able to score in transition. Oregon may be able to run away with the game if they are dominant the pace and transition battle. This point may be contradictory to the last sentence, but Oregon will have to work to get good shots. Rhode Island is ranked 2nd in the country in three-point defense and Oregon is going to have to be creative to give Tyler Dorsey good shots from behind the arch. Without Boucher presence on the floor, Dillon Brooks is going to have to play great on both ends of the floor. Oregon has superior talent, and simply the players are going to have to play like it.
Final Conclusion: Simply, this game is going to come down to fundamentals and execution. Both of these teams play great defense, and each offense will have to capitalize on opportunities they are presented with. The Oregon Ducks are going really miss Chris Boucher in this game. Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley is going to expose the holes Boucher absence leaves on the court. Over the last month, Rhode Island has played brilliantly for the last month, and they are ingrained with a do or die mentality that is necessary for underdogs in March. Before the tournament, I wrote about Rhode Island making a Sweet Sixteen run, and Rams have not given me any reasons to back off from that prediction.