Oregon is about as tough a 12-seed as you can draw in the NCAA Tournament. Pac-12 Tournament champions and on an 8-game winning streak, the Ducks’ defensive prowess has become highly entertaining to watch.
Defensive surge: In the last eight games, Oregon is holding opponents to shooting 34.6 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three. Also, the Ducks have held opponents to 62 points or less during the winning streak, except the overtime win against Arizona State in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
Records: Oregon (23-12), Wisconsin (23-10)
History: Friday will mark the third time in the last six years that Oregon and Wisconsin have met on March 22 in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin won the first two NCAA meetings and is 5-2 all-time versus the Ducks.
The Badgers have won 10 of their last 11 opening-round NCAA tournament games, holding teams to 55.9 points per game in the initial game.
All Hail Dana Altman: With four wins in the 2019 Pac-12 Tournament, Dana Altman became the winningest coach in Tournament history (19), surpassing Arizona’s Sean Miller. Oregon and Altman have finalized a contract extension through the 2025-26 season.
High Flying Ducks
When Payton Pritchard goes, the Ducks go: He is averaging 15.8 points per game with 39 assists, 22 steals and just 11 turnovers during Oregon’s eight-game winning streak.
This will be a particularly important game for the junior guard to stay hot; during the Pac-12 Tournament he had 22 assists with only four turnovers. Pritchard’s final bucket in the tournament was a nasty dunk and a smile that solidified him as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Louis King is coming off of a great Pac-12 Tournament; scoring in double figures in all four games and named to the Pac-12 all-tournament team.
The 6-foot-9 forward scored in double figures in all but two Pac-12 games to become the No. 2 freshman scorer in conference play, averaging 14.5 points per game.
Kenny Wooten swatted his way to four blocked shots in the Pac-12 Tournament title game. He finished the tournament with 10, a new Pac-12 record and the Ducks set the Pac-12 Tournament record for blocks with 23.
Badgers to keep an eye on
Wisconsin has one of the best players in the entire tournament in Ethan Happ. The four-year starter averages 17.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, which makes him the nation's only player averaging at least 16.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 4.0 apg. He’s on constant double-double watch; he ranks 5th in the NCAA with 21 double-doubles, tying the Wisconsin school record that has stood for 50 years.
Wisconsin led the Big Ten, allowing just 60.3 points per game during conference play. Overall, the Badgers are 9th in the NCAA allowing 61.4 points per game.
The Badgers like to control the inside. They outscored opponents in the paint every game except two in conference play.
Prediction: Oregon and Wisconsin have similarities in slow offensive pace and a stingy defense. I think this game will come down to turnovers and points off turnovers. The Ducks have excelled at forcing turnovers and average 7.8 steals per game. If Pritchard stays hot and Ducks can come up with a plan to slow down Happ, I predict Oregon will win its first round matchup.
How and where to watch
Time: Friday, March 22, 1:35 p.m
Where: SAP Center, San Jose, California