Who: 4 Saint Louis (28-6) vs. 12 Oregon (27-8)
When: Saturday 4:10 p.m. PT
Where: Midwest region - San Jose, Calif.
The disrespected Ducks made a major statement for the Pac-12 by handling fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart on Thursday and they now face off with one of the hottest teams in the nation that have won 16 of their last 17. Winners of four-straight, including the Pac-12 Tournament, the Ducks are picking up steam themselves and with the game being played on the West Coast, expect a pro-Oregon environment.
On the court, both of these teams play great team basketball, are pretty much devoid of superstars and are really fun to watch when they are rolling and executing at the highest level. Expect this one to go back-and-forth and it might simply come down to who slips up first to decide the game.
Who are the stars?
E.J. Singler Sr. F Oregon 6'6 215
It is really hard to single out one player on the Ducks, since they have about five or six guys who really are interlocking pieces that form a great team, but Singler leads the team in scoring and is the senior leader. Singler's biggest value might actually be on defense as he is an underrated defender and played a big part in holding Smart to just 10 points in the opening round game. Singler's next task will likely be trying to slow down Saint Louis star forward Dwayne Evans.
Dwayne Evans Jr. F Saint Louis 6'5 230
Speaking of Evans, he is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Billikens and the closest thing to a star player that they have on the team as he led the way in their first round win over New Mexico State, scoring 24. Evans is a tough forward that can get to the basket and get to the line where he is a fairly good free throw shooter. Evans also hits the boards hard, averaging seven a game and can make a huge impact on the offensive glass.
Arsalan Kazemi Sr. F Oregon 6'7 226
Kazemi might actually be Oregon's most valuable player as they are almost impossible to beat when he is playing well. One of the best rebounders and glue guys in the country, Kazemi nearly averages a double-double and has been a beast in the Ducks last two games with 12 points and 12 rebounds against UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship and had 11 points and 17 rebounds against the Cowboys with six of them coming on the offensive glass.
Can Saint Louis keep Oregon off of the glass?
Kazemi and the Ducks' offensive rebounding prowess has to be very concerning for the Billikens who aren't even in the Top 200 in the nation in total rebounding and actually got out boarded by New Mexico State 41 to 30 in their opening round game and gave up a troubling 21 on the offensive glass. The Ducks rebound as good as anyone in the country and pounded Oklahoma State 44 to 30 in their opening round game with 14 of them coming on the offensive glass. This might be a nightmare game for the Billikens if they give the Ducks ultra efficient offense extra opportunities to score.
Can the Ducks score on the Billikens' stingy defense?
The Billikens' play some of the best defense in the country, forcing opponents to take tough shots and holding them to 57 points-per-game on average. While efficient, the Ducks offense isn't particularly prolific and they actually don't shoot that well from the outside despite having some hot shooting recently from their guards. It will be key for the Billikens to keep the Ducks away from the basket and force them to beat them from behind the three-point line.
You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want Oregon to win?
The Ducks already made their point by dismissing Oklahoma State rather easily but a win for Oregon here would be a massive statement and step forward for the Pac-12. The Ducks went 26-8 and won the Pac-12 Tournament and were seeded twelfth and the Billikens went 27-6 and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament and were seeded fourth? That really needs to be exposed as too big of a disparity. The Billikens are for whatever reason one of the darlings of a lot of pundits and it would be great to have them get taken down by a team from the Pac-12.
I think this is a really, really good matchup for the Ducks because of their rebounding advantage. Like they did against Oklahoma State, I see the Ducks pounding the Billikens on the offensive glass and scoring on a lot of second chances that make the difference and keep them with a comfortable lead. I also see Singler and Kazemi keeping Evans under wraps and severely limiting Saint Louis' offensive capabilities.
Oregon 68 Saint Louis 57