Both teams placed in the South region of the bracket, No. 5 seed Wisconsin (23-10) comes off a regular season where it rebounded to finish fourth in the Big Ten Conference standings once again and will be dancing after missing out during a disappointing 2017-18 campaign.
For red hot Oregon (23-12), Dana Altman’s team rides an eight-game winning streak into the Big Dance and captured the Pac-12 Tournament championship with a demonstrative win over regular season champion Washington.
With their opponents listing four potential starters at 6’9 and a former recruiting target in guard Payton Pritchard, it should be quite the test for Greg Gard and the Badgers on Friday (approx. 3:30 p.m. CT, TBS).
Check out B5Q’s game previews, updated stats, projected starters, and both our podcast and written Q&A with Addicted to Quack below.
Oregon team stats
- Points per game: 70.5
- Opponents’ points per game: 62.9 (No. 17 in the nation through games played on March 17)
- Field goal percentage: 45.0
- Opponent field goal percentage: 40.2
- Three-point percentage: 34.3
- Opponent three-point percentage: 29.4 (No. 11 in the nation through games played on March 17)
- Free throw percentage: 71.9
- Rebounds per game: 34.4
- Rebound margin: +1.7
- Turnovers per game: 11.9
- Opponents turnovers per game: 13.9
- Steals per game: 7.8 (No. 34 in the nation through games played on March 17)
- Blocks per game: 4.2
- NCAA NET ranking: 51
Key KenPom.com stats (as of March 21)
- Team rank: 42
- Adjusted offensive efficiency: 107.9 (107th in nation)
- Adjusted defensive efficiency: 92.7 (18th in nation)
- Effective field goal percentage (offense): 51.7 (127th in nation)
- Effective field goal percentage (defense): 46.8 (25th in nation)
- Turnover percentage (defense): 20.9 (50th in nation)
- Offensive rebound percentage (offense): 29.7 (123rd in nation)
- Block percentage (defense): 14.5 (12th in nation)
- Steal percentage (defense): 11.7 (20th in nation)
- Best wins: 80-65 victory over Syracuse (No. 35 KenPom) on Nov. 16; two wins over Washington (No. 53 KenPom) in regular season finale on Mar. 9 and Pac-12 Tournament championship on Mar. 16
- Worst losses: 89-84 loss to Texas Southern (No. 209 in KenPom) on Nov. 26; two losses to UCLA (No. 107 in KenPom) on Jan. 10 and Feb. 23
Check out our podcast with Addicted to Quack’s Managing Editor Adam Chimeo from earlier this week! Be sure to follow Bucky’s 5th Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and pretty much everywhere where you listen to your favorite podcasts!
- Freshman forward Louis King (28 games, 25 starts), 6’9, 230 pounds: 13.1 points per game; 5.7 rebounds per game; shooting 42.9 percent from the field; 35.6 percent three-point shooter; 76.7 percent free throw shooter; scored 15 points in Pac-12 Tournament championship win vs. Washington.
- Junior guard Payton Pritchard (35 games, all starts), 6’2, 195 pounds: 12.7 points per game; 3.7 rebounds per game; 4.5 assists per game; shooting 42.3 percent from the field; 84.3 percent free throw shooter; scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, dished out seven assists and recorded four steals in Pac-12 championship game vs. Washington.
- Redshirt senior forward Paul White (35 games, 33 starts), 6’9, 230 pounds: 10.6 points per game; 3.9 rebounds per game; shooting 44.9 percent from the field; 37.9 percent three-point shooter; scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in Pac-12 Tournament championship win vs. Washington.
- Sophomore forward Kenny Wooten (31 games, 24 starts); 6’9, 235 pounds: 6.2 points per game; 4.6 rebounds per game; 2.0 blocks per game; seven rebounds, four blocks in Pac-12 Tournament championship win vs. Washington.
- Freshman center Francis Okoro (34 games, 19 starts), 6’9, 235 pounds: 3.1 points per game; 3.4 rebounds per game.
- Freshman guard Will Richardson (35 games, 12 starts); 6’5, 180 pounds: 6.2 points per game; 2.4 rebounds per game; eight points, 6-for-6 shooting from free throw line in Pac-12 Tournament championship win vs. Washington.
- Sophomore guard Victor Bailey, Jr. (35 games, eight starts); 6’4, 190 pounds: 7.7 points per game; 2.1 rebounds per game; 40.2 percent three-point shooter.
- Redshirt senior guard Ehab Amin (34 games, seven starts), 6’4, 200 pounds: 5.8 points per game; 3.0 rebounds per game.
To help us preview the Ducks, Addicted to Quack’s Arden Cravalho answered some of our questions.
What are the general thoughts on Oregon making it to the tournament, its eight game winning streak, but also matching up against Wisconsin once again?
The first word that comes to my mind is “astonishing”. The regular season didn’t plan out at all as well as this preseason top-15 team had hoped. First, it was Louis King and his torn meniscus. Then, that was followed up with the big season-ending foot injury to Bol Bol. Kenny Wooten also had a fractured jaw and was out for a long period of time. At one point, Dana Altman was playing with only eight scholarship players. Even with all that, the Ducks were able to win four games in four days to win the Pac-12 Tournament. So yeah, I’m very amazed that Oregon has made it to this point of the season.
As you said, Oregon is entering the tournament extremely hot and on an eight-game winning streak (the two last wins coming against NCAA Tournament opponents, Arizona State and Washington). The Wisconsin-Oregon matchup is going to be extremely defensive-minded and should be a low-scoring game. The big question is how the Oregon bigs are going to slow down Ethan Happ.
Just how bad was the Pac-12 Conference this season from your perspective? Was it as bad as it seems?
It was pretty bad. Another classic Pac-12 season of teams just beating each other up in conference play and hurting each other’s NCAA tournament odds. Arizona State had their ups-and-downs this season but in the end, I knew they were going to squeak themselves into the field. Washington played like the best team in the conference all year and Oregon got hot when it mattered the most. A Pac-12 with three NCAA bids is not what I had in mind after a disastrous preseason for the conference. The West Coast Conference actually won the head-to-head preseason battle against PAC-12 foes, 10-7. Not good at all for the “conference of champions”.
We always ask this—whom will likely guard Ethan Happ, and how effective can he/they be?
Wooten versus Happ is going to be what I’m looking forward to the most during this first round game. Kenny Wooten matches up really well with Happ on the defensive end. Happ should have his hands full with Wooten as well as with Francis Okoro. A lot of double teams with those big men will be coming towards the star Wisconsin forward.
Payton Pritchard is averaging 13.7 points per game and 4.5 assists per contest this season and dropped 20 points with seven dimes on Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game. How has he developed, and what makes him a threat on both sides of the court?
Pritchard has had his ups-and-downs this season but he has really come alive in the last two weeks. He is becoming more of the guard leader that we saw back in 2017 during the Final Four run. He’s taking control of each possession, making sure to get everyone on offense involved, being really consistent with his ability to make shots. Then, on the defensive side of the floor, it seems like he’s getting a hand on almost every pass. His ball pressure as of late has been spectacular.
Who else, in your opinion, could give Wisconsin trouble on Friday afternoon?
Of course, watch out for the forward freshmen and leading scorer for the Ducks, Louis “The” King. He could easily go off for 20. Paul White is another name to keep an eye on. He is the only other player on the team with NCAA Tournament experience (besides Pritchard) as he played with Georgetown from 2014-2016 before he transferred to Eugene. He was a combined 5-of-10 shooting from deep in the semifinals and championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament so he is starting to shoot his best at the right time of the year.
On the flip side, where has Oregon struggled and where can the Badgers take advantage?
The biggest weaknesses for the Ducks come from securing rebounds and shot selection. Oregon was one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 with both defensive and offensive rebounding. With the shots they take, Oregon can be inconsistent with the quality of those shots. The game plan for the Badgers should be to force the Ducks to take bad looks and crash the glass.
Final score: Oregon - 57, Wisconsin - 51. I wish the Wisconsin fans the best of luck. Happy March Madness.