The Wisconsin Badgers are set to face off against the Oregon Ducks in the NIT quarterfinals on Tuesday night, looking to win three straight after compiling wins over the Bradley Braves and the Liberty Flames in the early rounds of the tournament.
After a career-high 36 points from Steven Crowl led the Badgers to victory over the Braves, Chucky Hepburn scored a career-high 27 points in Wisconsin’s second-round win, setting up a date with the Ducks in Eugene, Oregon, with the winner heading to Las Vegas for the semifinals.
Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Tuesday.
The Oregon Ducks come into this matchup sporting a 21-14 record, including a 12-8 conference record that placed them fourth in the Pac-12, behind the likes of the UCLA Bruins, Arizona Wildcats, and USC Trojans.
The Ducks had a strong finish to their regular season, compiling four consecutive wins before dropping in the conference tournament semifinal to the Bruins.
However, they started the NIT tournament with a nice stretch, defeating their early opponents by an average of 20 points.
The Ducks are led by forward N’Faly Dante, who’s averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on 61.4% from the field.
But, per Raul Vasquez of BadgerBlitz, the Ducks will be without Dante, Jermaine Couisnard, and Will Richardson, who were their three leader scorers this season.
Just got official word from an Oregon official that N'Faly Dante and Jermaine Couisnard are both OUT tonight.— Raul Vazquez (@RaulV45) March 21, 2023
Will Richardson was already declared out for the year.
Ducks are officially down their top three scorers. Dante also the team’s leading rebounder/blocker. #Badgers
With the injuries, the Ducks come into the matchup without a single 10+ point-per-game scorer, taking away much from an offense that scored 70.7 points per contest.
Keys to the Game
The center battle: Steven Crowl has been a huge part of the Badgers’ success in the NIT, scoring 36 points in Wisconsin’s first-round matchup before dropping an efficient 14 points against Liberty.
With Dante out, much of the focus for Oregon with be on Nate Bittle when the Ducks go inside, who has seen minute increases and good production in the NIT tournament, averaging 19 points per game on 50% efficiency.
Crowl has the bigger frame, but Bittle has showcased an ability to knock down three-pointers, which will stretch Wisconsin’s big man in the pick-and-roll.
Foul trouble has been there with both players, which is why this matchup is of significant importance for both sides.
Turnovers: The Badgers haven’t been very consistent on offense this season, but the one area where they've excelled is a lack of turnovers, which revolves around their slow play style.
Similarly, the Ducks have done a good job in taking care of the basketball, giving up just 12.2 turnovers a game, but lost the ball 18 times in their second-round matchup against UCF, although they healthily won that battle with good defense.
In what could be a low-possession game, the turnover battle between the two teams could dictate which side comes out on top.
Free Throws: Wisconsin and Oregon take care of the ball well. However, both teams aren’t very good when it comes to free throws, with the Badgers shooting 67.1% on the season and the Ducks shooting 70.1% over the same stretch.
Those struggles have been amplified in the tournament for Oregon, who has gotten to the line consistently, but has left points on the board, shooting 18/30 against UC Irvine and 17/26 in their matchup with UCF.
Meanwhile, the Badgers have amped up their efforts from the charity stripe, hitting 23/28 of their free throws against Bradley and 20/24 in the win over Liberty.
Both teams have gotten to the line well in the tournament, but with Wisconsin’s recent hot stretch, they may have the edge in this category in a closely-contested matchup.