After Oregon was upset by a talented Oklahoma team in 2016, Duck fans didn’t hang their heads for too long. This was a team that ended the regular season hot and captured its first number one seed in school history. Things were looking up for an Oregon team that had most of its key players returning.
Almost a year later, the Ducks are just two wins away from glory.
Oregon defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 74-60 just 40 miles away from Allen Fieldhouse, a place that they had a 54-game winning streak until a loss earlier in the year. With that home court advantage, to go along with the Jayhawks playing some of their best basketball of the season, it was easy to see why Kansas was the heavy favorite.
The Ducks continued to win, but had relied heavily on Tyler Dorsey to scrape by against No. 11 Rhode Island and No. 7 Michigan to get to this point. Kansas was coming off a 32-point win over No. 4 Purdue. The Ducks were seen as the most formidable opponent to Kansas so far, but would likely just be a small speed bump on the Jayhawks’ road to another Final Four. However, several Ducks stepped up to show that the team had different plans.
Tyler Dorsey continued his run as probably the most outstanding player of the tournament so far, pouring in 27 points on 6-10 shooting from three. Every time it seemed like Kansas was about to make a run and bring the crowd back into it, Dorsey was there to silence it. But the player who had the most impact was Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Bell.
Bell was the anchor of an Oregon defense that held a Kansas team that hadn’t scored under 90 in the tournament to only 60. He had his usual stat line as of late for points and rebounds with 11 and 13, but his otherworldly 8 blocks were what made the difference on the defensive end. His defensive presence kept Kansas afraid to attack the paint, as each block seemed to take as much air out of the Jayhawks’ offense as it did the ball. This performance by Jordan Bell will go into the history books as one of the greatest individual efforts in Oregon basketball history.
This win is also a huge victory for Dana Altman, who’s being recognized more and more as one of the top coaches in college basketball. He took his game plan to Bill Self, a coach who has been to two Final Fours and won a national championship, and came out with a convincing victory. Altman will have a chance to put himself among the other greats of college basketball next week when the Ducks chase the glory of a national title.
The Ducks will play their Final Four game against the winner of Kentucky vs North Carolina, and obviously neither team will fall easily. Kentucky has one of the most talented rosters in the country, and North Carolina is looking to avenge the national title loss it had last year. If the Ducks win on Saturday, the team will play on April 3rd to try and win its first national title since 1939. The Ducks will likely be the underdogs no matter who they play, but they have defied the odds all tournament, and there’s no reason they should stop now.