A surging No. 8-seeded Oregon (25-9; 13-5) face a beleaguered No. 9-seeded Oklahoma State (18-13; 8-10) in a West region second-round NCAA matchup on Friday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. The Ducks have won 11 of their last 13 games, presenting the struggling Cowboys with a formidable challenge to advance to the Round of 32.
Oregon features solid guard play to make up for rather lackluster interior play. Oklahoma State has a similarly constructed roster and style of play.
Oregon has the more potent attack overall, however. The Ducks average 75.6 points per game, good for 26th in the NCAA. The Cowboys average just 67.8 points per game, which ranks 178th.
Senior guard, and Pac-12 Player of the Year, Joseph Young is a large reason for the Ducks' offensive clout. Young averages 20.2 points and 4.5 rebounds. He’s nearly automatic from the free-throw line, shooting 91.8 percent, which is certainly helpful in tight tournament games.
Oregon coach Dana Altman commented on his team’s ability to win close matchups, in large part because of Young.
“We're not a deep team; we're not a very big team, but our guys have managed to hang in there and win a number of close games,” Altman said in a press conference.
“Joe [Young] has bailed us out in a number of close games. Guys have made plays; different guys have stepped up throughout the year.”
Oregon could very well find itself in another tight game against Oklahoma State, who will counter Young with solid guard play of their own. Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte III do the bulk of the scoring for the Cowboys. Nash averages 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds while Forte adds 15.1 points. Forte is coming off a poor performance against Oklahoma, converting just one field goal on 10 attempts. The Cowboys have received strong play from Jeff Newberry in recent weeks, with the junior scoring double digits in six of his last nine games.
But it’s been a rough road recently for Oklahoma State. Travis Ford’s squad has lost six of their last seven games. Only two of the five losses were within five points.
History also isn't on Oklahoma State's side. The Cowboys have been knocked out in their first game in its last two NCAA tournaments and haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2008-2009. In 2013, Oregon eliminated Oklahoma, 68-55.
“We’re going to do everything we can – everything we possibly can,” Ford told reporters. “If I could wave a magic wand, we’d be in the Final Four. That’s not the way it works.”
The mindset of the team has to be simple, the coach pointed out, and the past has to be forgotten.
“But every year is different,” said Ford. “One year doesn’t correspond to the next year.
"Whether it was our first year, second time, third time, this is our fifth time, I want to make it to the second round. Not because we didn’t make it before, that has nothing to do with it. Zero. I want to do it because I want to try and advance.”
Start Time: 6:50 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Live Stream: Watch online at March Madness Live
Betting Odds: Oregon is a 1.5-point favorite
Prediction: As Vegas suggests, the game should be tight despite how the two schools are moving in opposite directions. Oregon has a star in Young and can lean on him when it matters. The Cowboys are poised to bounce back from poor results in recent weeks, but Oregon has the momentum entering the tournament, and should edge Oklahoma State.
Oregon over Oklahoma State, 67-62