Can the Oregon Ducks earn themselves a second consecutive 1 seed at the NCAA Tournament? Judging by this year’s team, the answer is a resounding yes.
The 2015-16 season was a Cinderella run for the Oregon Ducks. They weren’t ranked in the top-25 to start the season but earned themselves a top seed at the NCAA Tournament. That all changed for the 2016-17 season, as they became the alpha dogs of the Pac-12.[DanielG]
Oregon was ranked 5th in the AP poll to start the 2016-17 season. Considering last season’s run through the competition, they were especially worthy of the ranking. And with leading scorer, Dillon Brooks, and defensive extraordinaire, Chris Boucher, both returning, the Ducks looked on paper to be a National title favorite.
Things got off to a rough start for Oregon, losing two of their first four games. One of these losses was to Baylor, who, while at the time weren’t ranked, have reached the top spot in the AP poll this season. The second loss came at the hands of Georgetown, a brutal defeat for the Ducks.
Something must have clicked after that Georgetown loss, because Oregon would go on a tear, winning 17 straight games from November 17th – January 21st. Currently, the Ducks sit with four losses, the most recent two coming against a loaded UCLA team, and Colorado, both of which were Pac-12 games.
It’s going to be a tough task to knock off the Ducks. Not only do they feature five double-digit scorers ( Brooks, Boucher, Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey, and Jordan Bell), but are also a stingy defensive unit, evident by the teams 7 blocks and 6.5 steals per contest.
Over the last two seasons, it has been Brooks to carry the load for Oregon. The Junior averages 15.4 points, leading the team in scoring. They’ve also seen a contribution from Jordan Bell, with averages of 10.9 points and 7.9 rebounds. Oregon also has another weapon they didn’t last year, and that’s graduate transfer, Dylan Ennis ( 11.1 points, 3.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds per contest).
It’s this well-rounded play from all players that have catapulted Oregon in the Pac-12 conference title picture. While Oregon is guaranteed a spot in the big dance, their seeding has yet to he determined. A win in the Pac-12 Championship game will likely lock up a 1 seed for the second consecutive year.
The Ducks SOS is higher than any team in the Pac-12, and they’ve beaten Arizona, USC, and UCLA. Not to mention that UCLA and Arizona were ranked in the top-5 of the AP poll when the Ducks defeated them (USC was ranked 22nd).
Do the Oregon Ducks have what it takes to be called National Champions? It’s impossible to tell at this point. However, they need to be considered a favorite. The Ducks have already won 17 straight games, so winning six in a row shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288