Following a 14-point win in their NCAA tournament opener, the Wisconsin Badgers quickly shifted focus to the Oregon Ducks for a rematch of last year's game in the Round of 32. But not before having a little fun first.
Maybe it was because the top-seeded Badgers (32-3, 16-2 Big Ten) coasted past Coastal Carolina a little easier than the final score suggests, but the team was all giggles learning the finer points of stenography after the game. That prompted the one and only Nigel Hayes to issue a linguistic challenge of sorts in the post-game press conference.
And the Ducks? Mmmm ... not so amused. Oregon star Joseph Young feigned ignorance when asked about his matchups with Wisconsin stopper Josh Gasser. Young scored 27 to push the eighth-seeded Ducks (26-9, 13-5 Pac-12) to victory in a battle with Oklahoma State, and he'll need that game face to pull an epic upset against the Badgers.
Yet, as Addicted To Quack editors Sean Larson and David Piper explain, maybe Wisconsin would be better off putting Sam Dekker on Young anyway, in hopes that a little length can derail the Oregon shooting guard again.
B5Q: Once again, Dana Altman's team has an elite offense that plays uptempo. However, Oregon's roster has almost completely turned over in the last year. Who are the most important new faces for Wisconsin fans to be aware of?
Addicted to Quack (Sean): First off, because of the complete overhaul of the roster, nobody had any expectations for Oregon this season. Had you asked me before the season, I would've told you they would be lucky to go .500. However, Altman found a way to work with what he had, and here we are. Defensively, Jordan Bell is key. This year, Bell, who is only a freshman, averaged 2.65 blocks per game (19th in the country). At only 6'7'', he's undersized in the paint, but still finds a way to make big plays defensively. However, he does have a problem of getting in foul trouble as a result for trying to compensate for his size. Offensively, keep an eye on Dwayne Benjamin (or Snoop Dogg, if you ask Bill Walton). Benjamin is a versatile player who, at 6'7'', is big enough to play in the paint, but can also shoot from deep as well.
David: Well, Wisconsin fans will remember the most important face, Joseph Young. The Pac-12 Player of the Year scored 27 against the Badgers in last year's tournament, and is always a threat. Oregon's second best player, Elgin Cook, is a Milwaukee product. But almost all of the other faces are new. The biggest scoring threats from the newbies are freshman Dillon Brooks, who has a well rounded inside-out offensive game and put up nearly 12 points a contest. The other is a transfer, Dwayne Benjamin, who is a streaky shooter than can score in bunches. Freshman Jordan Bell set the school's blocked shots record and anchors the D.
B5Q: Joseph Young is a devastating offensive weapon. What kind of defensive strategies have given him trouble this season?
Oregon vs. Wisconsin Q&A, Part 2
•Addicted To QuackAddicted To Quack has its own questions for us as Oregon looks to avenge squandering a 12-point halftime lead exactly one year ago today.
Sean: When Joseph Young doesn't score, he tries to shoot his way out of his slump. In Young's two games this year where he didn't score at least 10 points, the senior guard shot 25 percent or worse in both games, with Oregon losing both games. He isn't shy of trying to shoot his way out of any slump, so when he starts cold, you can't forget about him. Leave him too open after he starts missing shots, and he'll just adjust and take over. I don't think Oregon has enough reliable weapons on offense where if you pressure Young on defense, you risk leaving another shooter open. When playing Oregon, your number one priority should always be Joseph Young and to not underestimate him if he does start cold. Keep up the pressure on him, keep him out of his game, and good things will happen for your team.
David: Arizona has the best defensive player in the country in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and he has been able to limit Young as Arizona has blown out Oregon three times. There have been no other effective strategies.
B5Q: The Ducks don't have anyone in their rotation over 6'7". Who draws the defensive assignment on Frank Kaminsky? Are any of the big men capable of surprising us with a big game?
Sean: That task is going to fall on the shoulders of Elgin Cook. The redshirt junior certainly doesn't have the height to match up with a guy like Kaminsky, but he's an incredibly athletic player who can score with ease at the other end. Against Oklahoma State, Cook scored 18 points with five rebounds and three assists. He'll be the big guy to look for offensively in the paint. If Young gets cold, Cook can step in and provide some offense while Young figures things out.
David: Six-foot-seven freshman Jordan Bell draws the assignment on Kaminsky, but Bell is prone to foul trouble and the effectiveness of the Oregon defense is limited if Kaminsky draws him outside. Expect the Ducks to go heavy zone.
B5Q: Oregon has been on a really nice run (14-3) over the last two months. What are your views on the Pac-12 this season and how well the conference slate prepared the Ducks for the postseason? Do you chalk up this recent stretch to Oregon finally coming together at the right time or is it due to the level of competition?
Sean: The Pac-12 is a very underrated conference. It may not have top teams outside of Arizona or maybe Utah, but that's in part because anyone can beat anyone on any given night in the conference. There was no such thing as an easy win in the conference, and I think any team could attest to that. I think their recent stretch is a combination of those two things. Dana Altman shuffled different lineups in the first half of the season while the team found their identity. After that was solved, we started to see the Ducks string some wins together, and I think they were well tested against some tough opponents. As a result of those tough games, Oregon had to come out and fight for every win, and I think they understood that. What Altman said also helped was that with such a young team, the guys were going out there and just having fun, playing with no expectations or pressure. That's the dangerous thing about a team like Oregon with no expectations, they have nothing to lose.
David: I think the conference is underrated. Oregon is a great example of how there was a lot of turmoil in the Pac-12 at the beginning of the year, and the non-conference records don't reflect how well the teams were playing at the end of the season. That said, Dana Altman has a way of getting the best out of his team at the end of the year. We thought an NIT berth would be an incredible accomplishment. This team has far exceeded that.
B5Q: How do Oregon fans perceive how the season ended last season? Is there a sense that this will be an opportunity for redemption against the Badgers?
Sean: I think last year, fans were really disappointed with how the season ended, considering they had a 12-point lead at halftime against Wisconsin. I'm sure both the fans and players felt that one just slipped away from them. I don't think there will be any sense of redemption with this game, just because there are so many new faces who weren't a part of that loss last year. The guys who were a part of it, like Young, understand the past is the past and it does no good dwelling on it.
David: Last year's Wisconsin game is almost an afterthought due to the rape scandal that hit the program after the NCAA Tournament. Three key players were expelled from school. Due to that, and the low expectations afterward, most fans are just now paying attention to this team.
B5Q: Care to make a prediction on Sunday's game?
Sean: I think Oregon will be competitive. Do I think they will pull off a massive upset? Absolutely not. Wisconsin is a team that could win the national championship, and nobody would be surprised. I think it will be a very similar game to last year. It won't be a total blowout, but Frank Kaminsky will simply prove to be too much for the undersized Ducks as the Badgers will march on to the Sweet 16.
David: I think Oregon is a really good team this year, certainly better than the Utah and UCLA teams that have already advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is a terrible matchup for them. They have nobody that can guard Kaminsky, and have trouble with teams that are efficient on offense and rebound well. I expect a comfortable Wisconsin win in the 15 point range.
Thanks to Sean and David for chipping in to preview the Oregon matchup with us this morning. If you are a Twitterer, find their musings @AddictedToQuack. Tip time is scheduled for approximately 6:45 p.m. CT from Omaha, or about 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Kansas-Wichita State game. Wisconsin is favored by 12. Go Badgers!
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