Oregon’s first game in the NCAA tournament was phenomenal.
The No. 7 Ducks blistered No. 2 Iowa on the way to a 95-80 upset win over the Hawkeyes in the second round of the West region. Oregon scored 56 points in the first half and shot 56% from the field as Iowa was helpless to stop the Ducks’ offense.
Though the game wasn’t incredibly competitive throughout most of the second half it was one of the most entertaining of the tournament so far. Unless you’re an Iowa fan.
That fun should have been expected; Iowa entered the game averaging over 80 points per game and Oregon’s offense ranked No. 13 in KenPom.com’s metrics. Combine that with two teams that were outside of the top 50 in KenPom’s defensive rankings and the recipe was there for a shootout.
And while Oregon pushed its lead to 15 early in the second half the game’s helter-skelter nature seemed well-suited for an attempt at an Iowa comeback. That never really came. The Hawkeyes cut the lead to 67-57 with just under 15 minutes to go before Joe Wieskamp appeared to re-aggravate a right ankle injury suffered in the Big Ten tournament. He walked gingerly off the court after he planted his ankle awkwardly while losing the ball on the sideline.
Even though Wieskamp eventually returned to the game after a brief absence, Oregon quickly pushed its lead back to 15 and Iowa never got within striking distance again.
All five of Oregon’s starters scored nine or more points and scored the team’s first 78 points. The Ducks didn’t play in the first round of the NCAA tournament after their game against No. 10 VCU was declared a no contest because of positive COVID-19 tests at VCU.
Iowa star Luka Garza had 36 points but didn’t get much offensive help from anyone else, as Iowa’s players not named Garza shot 38% from the field.
The Big Ten’s disastrous start
The Big Ten got nine teams into the 2021 men’s NCAA tournament. And with nine games complete in the second round there are just two teams left. Iowa became the seventh of the nine teams to get eliminated during the first weekend with the blowout loss. And it’s the second No. 2 seed from the Big Ten to get knocked out of the tournament; Ohio State lost to Oral Roberts in the first round.
Only Michigan and Maryland remain and they both play later on Monday. The Terrapins are underdogs to Alabama and Michigan is favored by five over LSU. It’s not that much of a stretch to see the Big Ten without a team in the Sweet 16. And that would be an incredible disaster for a conference that was considered the best in college basketball over the course of the season.
On the flip side, the Pac-12 hasn’t lost a game yet. Oregon’s win pushed the conference to 8-0 in the tournament with Oregon State already in the Sweet 16 with the Ducks and Colroado, UCLA, and USC yet to play on Monday.
How far can Oregon go?
While we’ve seen enough from the Big Ten through the first four days of the NCAA tournament to declare the conference’s performance a bad one, is it possible to believe that Oregon could be the biggest threat to Gonzaga in the West region? It’s not an absurd idea.
The Ducks showed on Monday that they have five starters that can hang with any of the best teams in the country and that they have the capability to put up enough points to play with Gonzaga.
You can’t say that about either Kansas or USC. While the Jayhawks have played better of late, KU was in a midseason funk offensively. And while USC beat Oregon by 14 during the regular season it’s easy to see a potential Sweet 16 rematch being a lot closer than that game on Feb. 22.
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