Kenny Wooten

Concerns surround Oregon forward Kenny Wooten’s NBA readiness

Concerns surround Oregon forward Kenny Wooten’s NBA readiness

The 2019-20 Oregon men’s basketball roster is currently looking pretty sparse. The Ducks team that pulled off an inspired late season run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 has largely dispersed.

Two seniors moved on, three players left the program for the NBA Draft and two Ducks have transferred.

The latest Duck to fly away? Shot-blocking phenom, Kenny Wooten.

On Sunday night, Wooten took to Instagram to announce he will forgo his junior season and stay in the NBA Draft.

Wooten’s decision is an interesting one and of course he could still change his mind, ultimately he has until May 29 to declare for the NBA Draft or return to Oregon.

The 6-foot-9 rim protector’s athleticism is undeniable. In his two seasons at UO, Wooten ranks third all-time in Oregon history for blocked shots with 166, earning back-to-back All-Pac-12 Defensive team honors. His defensive contributions late in the 2018-19 season propelled Oregon’s push to win the Pac-12 Tournament and dance to the Sweet 16.


So is he trying to strike while the iron is hot? Wooten has not returned a message seeking comment and the school has not confirmed a final decision from Wooten.

NBC Sports NBA Draft Analyst Rob Dauster would advise Wooten to return to school. 

“The concern I have is two-fold,” Dauster said. “For starters, if he’s not catching and dunking, he really can’t do anything offensively. He had 33 assists in 70 college games. That’s fine when you’re Clint Capela, but - and I don’t have official measurements for him yet - Wooten is roughly three inches shorter or so.”

“The other question is if he’s going to end up being as defensively versatile as someone like Jordan Bell. You watch what Jordan does in this Golden State defense, and he’s switching and trapping and swarming and all over the place on the perimeter in addition to being the athlete/dunker/shot-blocker. I don’t know if Wooten can do all of that. I think he’s far less mobile and fleet a foot.”

Wooten was not invited to the NBA Combine and isn’t on ESPN’s board for the top 100 players for this year’s NBA Draft.

Of course, Wooten can develop and improve his weaknesses at the professional level, but it appears that would likely happen in the NBA G League or as a two-way player.

“He is 21 already, so if he wants to start earning money, I get it, I just think that coming back, adding some semblance of an offensive repertoire and improving on where he struggles defensively could get him to a point where he could get a guaranteed contract in next year’s draft,” Dauster said.

“But, frankly, that isn’t a guarantee either.”

Since the exodus of Ducks from the program, Oregon has yet to add a player eligible to play this season. UO has only three players from last year’s team (if senior Payton Pritchard comes back) with a total of six eligible scholarship players (Duquesne transfer Eric Williams must sit this year).

I don’t doubt coach Dana Altman, who has become a wizard at piecing rosters together in crunch time. However, if Wooten changes his mind and has a consistent junior season exemplifying offensive growth and defensive versatility… It’d be beneficial for Oregon and likely Wooten’s draft stock.

Bol Bol a lottery selection? Latest NBA mock drafts for Oregon Ducks

Bol Bol a lottery selection? Latest NBA mock drafts for Oregon Ducks

The ping pong balls have landed! The New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise winners of the NBA draft lottery and first chance at Duke star Zion Williamson. Now that the lottery results are final, let’s take a look at landing spots for potential Pro Ducks.

BOL BOL: The highest-rated basketball player to ever sign with Oregon who seemed to have come and gone in a blink of an eye.

It’s easy to see why Bol is one of the most intriguing players in the 2019 NBA Draft: 7-foot 2 centers with 7-foot-8 wingspans and terrific outside shooting (52 percent from three) don’t come along often. In his nine games with the Ducks, he led the team in points (21.0 per game), rebounds (9.6) and blocks (2.7).

[READ: Bol Bol, worth the gamble?]

Did he display enough of his immense potential before the season-ending injury to wipe away the red flag durability concerns? Will the 7-foot-2 center be a lottery selection or has his draft stock slipped? The consensus among mock drafts is that he will be a first round draft pick.

8th pick: Atlanta Hawks select Oregon center Bol Bol (Bleacher Report)

17th pick: Brooklyn Nets select Oregon center Bol Bol (SB Nation)

10th pick: Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks) select Oregon center Bol Bol (NY Post)

17th pick: Brooklyn Nets select Oregon center Bol Bol (Sports Illustrated)

22nd pick: Boston Celtics select Oregon center Bol Bol (NBC Sports)

LOUIS KING: The 6-foot-9 forward’s draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team. But how far?

[READ: Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King]

The five-star recruit has been listed as the No. 36 prospect in the draft by ESPN. Most mock drafts are first round only and do not have King listed, the consensus is that he will be selected in the second round.

38th pick: Chicago Bulls (from Memphis Grizzlies) select Oregon forward Louis King (Sports Illustrated)

30th pick: Milwaukee Bucks select Oregon forward Louis King (Mass Live)

Bol and King are among 66 players invited to this year’s NBA Combine, held May 16-17 (Noon-4 p.m. PT, ESPN2) at Quest Multisport in Chicago. Interestingly, King has decided not to work out in the five-on-five games and the combine.

Neither Payton Pritchard or Kenny Wooten (who also declared for the NBA draft and testing the waters) are currently listed as a potential draft pick on any mock draft I could find. Most likely, it'll be all eyes on Bol and King. 

The deadline for players to withdraw from the draft and return to school is June 10.

[READ: Big decision time: Four Oregon Ducks enter NBA draft]

Louis King officially NBA bound: Ducks still capable of greatness

Louis King officially NBA bound: Ducks still capable of greatness

Louis King won’t be in an Oregon Duck uniform next season. The 6-foot-9 forward declared on Twitter that he'd be hiring and agent and submitting paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft.

The freshman becomes the third one-and-done player at Oregon in two seasons (Troy Brown and Bol Bol). He’s largely projected to be a second round selection although some mock drafts do not have him listed.

Of course, a strong NBA Combine workout and workouts hosted by NBA teams could increase King’s draft stock.

This decision comes on the heels of Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu choosing to forgo the WNBA draft, where she would have likely been the top pick.

If King had stayed for his sophomore season, Oregon had the recipe to be a Final Four contender; returning seven scholarship players and adding a top 10 recruiting class. But don't fret, Ducks fans, next season is not lost. The Ducks can still find success and make a posteason run with Dana Altman as head coach, Kenny Wooten and Payton Pritchard's likely return, a strong incoming class and the team buying into elite defense. However, without King, Oregon will again need to find its centerpiece star, similar to when Bol was lost to a season ending injury.

“My incredible coaches, teammates, managers, and training staff made me a better player on the court and a better person off the court,” King said on Twitter. “And to the fans who supported me and lifted me up - Oregon fans are the best in the world and there is no better place to play college basketball.

"As grateful as I am for the journey that has brought me to this point, my family and I have decided the time has come for me to pursue my next dream. This is the one that has driven me since I first started playing basketball as a young kid, and that is to pursue the opportunity to play at the highest level, in the NBA. For that reason, I am declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft with the intent to hire an agent. Thank you, God bless."

The former five-star recruit gained a lot of attention in Oregon’s postseason run, helping the Ducks win the Pac-12 tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual national champion Virginia. His 7-foot-1 wingspan helped Oregon’s excellent defense and makes him an ideal NBA selection. In seven postseason games, he averaged 16.4 points per game on 50 percent shooting, including an impressive 61.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

King, the No. 35 prospect in the ESPN 100, finished second on the team in scoring this season behind Bol. He was named to the Pac-12 all-freshman team and was an all-conference honorable mention selection after averaging 13 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game and shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range.

Big decision time: Four Oregon Ducks enter NBA draft

Big decision time: Four Oregon Ducks enter NBA draft

The Oregon men’s basketball roster could be looking very different next season.

Louis King, Payton Pritchard and Kenny Wooten will all declare for the NBA draft, as first reported by John Canzano. Who will actually take their talents to the pros and who will return? That will be decided in the next two months.

The three Ducks join freshman center Bol Bol, who has already hired an agent and made his decision official.

[READ: Bol Bol, worth the gamble?]

Making the decision to enter the NBA Draft and go through the draft process doesn’t mean all three won’t be wearing green and yellow next season. It’s called “testing the waters” for a reason, like dipping your toe to see if you might make millions or not. Totally relatable, right?

This news comes days after Oregon women's basketball star guard Sabrina Ionescu chose to pass on the opportunity to go pro

[READ: First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now]

Here is how it will go down for the Ducks before they have to decide on their future. Players invited to the NBA Combine can attend from May 14-19 and attend workouts hosted by NBA teams. The deadline for players to withdraw from the draft and return to school is June 10.

A new NCAA rule also allows prospects to hire an agent but terminate that agent relationship prior to May 29 and still be eligible to play in college. This will be very helpful when weighing whether to go back to Oregon or not.

Currently, King, who was a five-star recruit, is the most likely Duck to join Bol in the draft. His draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 all-tournament team. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward has been listed as the No. 36 prospect in the draft by ESPN.

[READ: Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King]

Pritchard also got attention from his postseason play. In seven postseason games, Pritchard took command of the team and averaged 16 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds.

Wooten swatted his way to 74 blocked shots and averaged 6.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season

The 6-foot-9 sophomore also tore up the postseason; blocking 10 shots in Oregon’s two NCAA tournament games and four blocks in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Neither Pritchard or Wooten are currently listed as a potential draft pick on any mock draft I could find. Most likely, it'll be all eyes on King. 

Next season could be destined for success after building on the 2018-19 season, which I view a success. After losing star Bol to a season ending injury, overcoming injuries to King and Wooten, Oregon finished the season with a 25-13 record and was the last Pac-12 team standing in the NCAA Tournament. No Oregon coach has more victories than coach Dana Altman (235 wins, 9 seasons), who also signed a contract extension through 2025-26. Oregon could return as many as seven scholarship players and add a top 10 recruiting class.

The NBA Draft is June 20. Be sure to check back all through April, May and June as Jamie Hudson brings you updated Mock Draft for the entire first round!

Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King

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USA Today

Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King

The Oregon men's basketball season sits in a precarious situation. In a sport where not one player that's good enough to make millions in the NBA wants to play for free in college, the Ducks, like other programs, are continually fighting to build a national title contender before their best players move on to get paid. 

Oregon's men's basketball season ended sooner than it had hoped but also much later than anyone could have expected once the Pac-12 Conference season began without Bol Bol, lost for the season with a foot injury. The team's run to the Pac-12 tournament championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where last Thursday it fell to No. 1-seed Virginia, was accomplished with a roster that consisted of just two seniors (Paul White and Ehab Amin) and enough talented underclassmen to at least contemplate a deeper run next season. 

However, that likely won't be possible without the return of freshman Louis King, who following the team's loss to Virginia he is undecided about his future. King is the key to it all. With him, the Ducks would have the look of a Final Four contender. With out him, it's difficult to believe that the Ducks will make another strong run. 

First off, let's just get this question out of the way: Junior point guard Payton Pritchard and sophomore forward Kenny Wooten have no business leaving for the NBA at this time. Neither is listed as a potential draft pick on any mock draft out there (at least that I could find). Sure, they should test the waters, but both would be better off returning next season. If both were to leave, Oregon would have no chance of doing much of anything next season. 

Now let's return to a world where both Pritchard and Wooten do return. In this world, a team led by this duo would be quite formidable. Plus, they would be surrounded by a ton of budding talent. Guard Victor Bailey Jr., who will become a junior, is going to bust out next season. The former four-star recruit shot .39 percent from three-point range last season and should only improve his all-around game.

The 2018 recruiting class was led by five-star gems, King and Bol Bol, who will be a first-round pick in June, but also featured three four-star recruits. Guard Will Richardson, forward Miles Norris and center Francis Okoro certainly flashed great potential this season. 

Then Oregon has its incoming class led by five-star forward C.J. Walker, and four-star recruits; guard Christopher Duarte, forward Chandler Lawson and center Isaac Johnson.  

On paper, that's at least six recent four-star recruits, a five-star talent in Walker, Payton and Wooten hit the hardwood with next season. Not bad. But it's not good enough to make a Final Four run given the extreme youth. 

What that group needs is King to get them over the top. King, after Bol Bol went down with a foot injury, was easily UO's most talented player on the court. He initially struggled after missing seven games with a torn meniscus. He shot 21 of 64 (32.8 percent) over his first seven games before finding his grove. He finished at 43.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three while ranking second on the team in scoring (13.5), only behind Bol Bol (21.1) and second in rebounds (5.5), also behind his fallen teammate (9.6).

King would be the team's centerpiece. The star other teams fear. The player that could make everyone around him better by his sheer presence, especially the incoming freshmen. He is a fluid, graceful, 6-foot-9 athlete capable of getting his own shot, penetrating and dropping threes in the faces of defenders. What's not to love?

King would be this team's Dillon Brooks, who led the Ducks to the 2017 Final Four. 

Without King, the Ducks would still be good, and who knows, maybe one of the returning sophomores or incoming freshmen blows up and becomes that dawg.

That's a big "if." King is a sure thing.

Imagine, if you will, this season's Ducks team with Troy Brown as the centerpiece. 

Brown entered the NBA after his freshman season and went to the Washington Wizards at No. 16.  Had he remained at Oregon, he could have helped the Ducks maybe win the Pac-12 regular season even without Bol Bol. 

The reality is that most Final Four teams are led by either future NBA players with some seasoning, and/or battle-tested upperclassmen that play the game at such a mentally high level that younger, more talented teams can't compete. 

Look at Duke. It features two players in Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett that could go one-two in this year's NBA Draft yet that team didn't go as far as the Ducks did in 2017 with not one first-round pick. The Blue Devils, before losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, barely got by Central Florida (77-76) and Virginia Tech (75-73). 

What the Ducks did have in 2017 were three future second-round picks in Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey, that had been around a couple of years and were running with a senior in Chris Boucher that is now with the Atlanta Hawks after going undrafted following a knee injury. That combination of talent and experience led the Ducks to the Final Four. 

King, as an experience sophomore with NBA potential, would be deadly, much like Brooks two years ago as a junior. Brown would have been the same but he left early. The comparison of King to Brown in terms of potential impact as sophomores is real but the comparison between the two as NBA prospects is murky.

Brown pretty much had to leave. He was almost a lottery pick and is making millions. King, on the other hand, is not considered to be a sure-fire NBA Draft pick. In fact, NBADraft.net does not list King in its two-round mock draft and neither does HoopsHype.com

That all could change if King were to workout well at the NBA combine, and online mock drafts don't necessarily reflect what NFL scouts are thinking. But as of now, King doesn't appear to be a lock to get drafted. 

For Oregon's sake, it should hope that King decides to return and attempt to play his way into becoming a potential first-round pick in 2020, rather than chase the dream too soon and end up toiling in the G League. With Dana Altman coaching, the team buying into playing elite defense, a glut of young talent and the likely return of Pritchard and Wooten, Mr. King could be set up for a glorious sophomore season. 

Without him, Oregon will still be good next season. There is no denying that. But the Ducks won't have a legitimate chance of reaching the Final Four without the return of its King. 

The last double-digit seed standing: No.12 Oregon vs. No.1 Virginia

The last double-digit seed standing: No.12 Oregon vs. No.1 Virginia

Oregon is the NCAA tournament’s lone double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. The Pac-12 Tournament champion Ducks are on a 10-game winning streak after crushing UC Irvine, and the nation's longest winning streak (17 games). The Ducks are about to about to face their toughest competition yet. Virginia defeated the Oklahoma Sooners, 63-51 on Sunday, to punch its ticket to Louisville, Kentucky. It’ll be the Cavaliers’ 10th NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.  

Fun Fact: Oregon is the last Pac-12 school standing in the big dance.

Did you know? In the history of the NCAA Tournament, a total of twenty No. 12 seeded teams have made the Sweet Sixteen. The Ducks are the first school to ever advance to the Sweet Sixteen twice as a No. 12 seed (2013).

Records: Oregon (25-12), Virginia (31-3)

A win would: Advance the Ducks to their fifth Elite Eight appearance since 2002.

All Hail Dana Altman:  No Oregon basketball coach has more wins than Dana Altman. The victory over UC Irvine tied Altman with Ernie Kent as the winningest coach in Oregon history (235 wins). Oregon and Altman have finalized a contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Odds Are: UVA opened as a 7.5-point favorite over the Ducks, according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The over/under is 119 total points.

[READ: The Ducks’ have an X-Factor, a commander and a King]

Defensive surge: Oregon’s stifling defense continues to shine throughout its 10-game winning streak; allowing only 54.2 points per game while shooting 34.9 percent from the field and 23.0 percent from three. 

High Flying Ducks

Oregon's 10-game win streak is tied for the longest active streak in the nation with Auburn. 

Kenny Wooten swatted his way to a seven blocked shots against UC Irvine, which is the most blocks in an NCAA Tournament game, second only to Jordan Bell’s eight blocks vs. Kansas in 2017.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore has been on a tear; blocking 10 shots in Oregon’s two NCAA tournament games and four blocks in the Pac-12 Championship game. 

Payton Pritchard has taken command of Oregon. The junior guard is averaging almost 17 points per game with 54 assists and 25 steals during Oregon’s 10-game winning streak.

Pritchard’s dominance continued against the Anteaters, leading all scorers with 18 points and adding seven assists. He scored 19 against Wisconsin in the first round and didn’t score less than 18 points in any Pac 12 tournament game.

6-foot-9 forward Louis King added 16 points and provided huge bursts of momentum with his clutch shooting against UCI.

Against UC Irvine, Pritchard commanded, Wooten denied and dunked, steady Paul White shined, King came up clutch, Francis Okoro led the huddle, but it was senior Ehab Amin who changed the game. His presence was felt beyond the stat line.

Cavaliers to keep an eye on

The Virginia Cavaliers are averaging 71.6 points on 47.9 percent shooting. Against Oklahoma, UVA had three double-figure scorers: Mamadi Diakite (14), Ty Jerome (12) and De’Andre Hunter (10).

Virginia ranked No. 1 in scoring defense this season. UVA allows only 55 points on 38.1 percent shooting with an impressive 27.8 percent shooting from deep. The Cavaliers grab an average of 34.8 rebounds per game.

They are mentally tough and don’t make errors; the Cavs are among the best in the nation in turnovers and fouls per game.

Quotable: "We're going to have to play really well,” Altman said. “They're big. They're physical. They don't make mistakes. They're not going to beat themselves. But we've got a puncher's chance, and we'll go swing away and see what happens."

How and where to watch

Time: Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m. PT

Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

TV: TBS

Live stream: March Madness Live

More Ducks: How sweet it is: Impressed by Oregon basketball yet?

Oregon Ducks must stop Anteaters to reach seventh Sweet 16

Oregon Ducks must stop Anteaters to reach seventh Sweet 16

Two of the hottest teams are about to meet in the round of 32.

Oregon is about as tough a 12-seed as you can draw in the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12 Tournament champion Ducks are on a 9-game winning streak after bouncing the Wisconsin Badgers out of the Big Dance. Defeating the UC Irvine Anteaters sends Oregon to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time.

[READ The Ducks’ have an X-Factor, a commander and a King]

UC Irvine has won 17 games straight and successfully pulled off a big first round win over No.4 seed Kansas State.

Fun Fact: UC Irvine’s win over Kansas State was the biggest upset, by seed, so far and the Anteaters’ first NCAA Tournament win in program history.

Did you know? UC Irvine is the only team from California standing in the NCAA Tournament. 

Records: Oregon (24-12), UC Irvine (31-15)

All Hail Dana Altman:  The Ducks are 6-0 in first round NCAA Tournament games under coach Dana Altman. With one more win, Dana Altman will tie Ernie Kent as the winningest coach in Oregon history (235 wins). Oregon and Altman have finalized a contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Defensive surge: In the last nine games, Oregon is holding opponents to shooting 34.6 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range. 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.

High Flying Ducks:

During the nine-game winning streak, the Ducks are outscoring their opponents by nearly 18 points per game. 

Kenny Wooten swatted his way to four blocked shots in back-to-back games; the Pac-12 Tournament title game and NCAA Tournament opening round. The 6-foot-9 sophomore was the X-factor in Oregon’s win over Wisconsin; his alley-oops and posturizing blocks changed the game.

Wooten finished the tournament with 10 blocks, a new Pac-12 record and the Ducks set the Pac-12 Tournament record for blocks with 23.

Payton Pritchard has taken command of Oregon. The junior guard is averaging over 16 points per game with 47 assists and 24 steals during Oregon’s nine-game winning streak. His confidence soared vs. Wisconsin, leading all scorers with 19 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.

Louis King provides huge bursts of momentum with his clutch shooting. Against the Badgers he shot a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and finished the game with 17 points.

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.

Anteaters to keep an eye on:

UC Irvine won the Big West championship with stingy on-ball defense that encourages the opponent to miss a lot of shots. UCI is top five nationally in field goal percentage defense and allows just 63.3 points per game.

Oregon will have its work cut our for them in the race for rebounds.  The Anteaters are plus 7.1 in the rebounding margin.

The Anteaters have one of the deepest benches and most experienced rosters in the sport. Nine different players have led the team in scoring this season and eight players average over five points per game.

UCI’s best scorers are Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard who both average double- figures with 12.5 and 11.1 points per game, respectively. 

6-foot-1 guard Evan Leonard was the star against K-State, scoring 19 points on just seven shots from the field, and a perfect 9-for-9 at the foul line.

Quotable: “We really jump on people,” Pritchard said. “I know (UC Irvine) is hot…We are going to be ready to play.“

How and where to watch

Time: Sunday, March 24, approximately 6:40 p.m.

Where: SAP Center, San Jose, California

TV: TBS

More Ducks:

Obama picks the Ducks to the Sweet 16

Hot Ducks advance in the Dance

The X Factor, the Commander and the King: Hot Ducks advance in the Dance

The X Factor, the Commander and the King: Hot Ducks advance in the Dance

The madness and drama continues for Oregon into late March. The No.12 seed Oregon Ducks upset No.5 seed Wisconsin, 72-54, extending their nine-game winning streak and advancing to the round of 32.

I guess what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t always stay in Las Vegas. Oregon is now 6-0 in first round NCAA Tournament games under coach Dana Altman. Once hoping for an NIT Tournament invite, improbably, the Ducks possess a shot at the Sweet 16 after securing the conference’s automatic NCAA bid by winning four-straight games in the Pac-12 Tournament.

"You know, we just weren’t on the same page,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said of Oregon’s recent surge. “And how quickly it changed.”

Once again, Oregon’s defensive prowess disrupted the opponent’s best player. The Ducks crowded, trapped and double-teamed Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, making it extremely difficult for the Badgers to get the ball to the four-year starting All-American. Oregon held Happ, maybe one of the best players in the entire tournament, to only four points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half and 12 total points, eight rebounds, zero assists and five turnovers.

“I thought our guys really were aware of (Happ),” Altman said. “And then Kenny (Wooten) got a couple of his shots, and I think that helped us, put a thought in his mind.”

The first 20 minutes of Oregon’s first round NCAA Tournament game versus Wisconsin was as advertised; a tenacious defensive war, resulting in a 25-25 tie going into halftime.

Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player Payton Pritchard brought his hot streak into the NCAA Tournament. The junior put on a show and etched his name into Oregon history books; rising to fourth in UO career assists and in the Top 20 for career scoring.

Pritchard took command, impacting both sides of the floor; fearlessly driving to the basket, sinking three-pointers while also forcing turnovers and fighting for 50-50 balls. He led all scorers with 19 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.

Pritchard and freshman Louis King had 19 of the team's 25 first half points.

Enter perfect Paul White and X-factor Kenny Wooten.

After hurting his shoulder in a collision in the first half, Wooten started the second half in a big way; a vicious put-back dunk followed by another nasty dunk. It was only the beginning for the 6-foot-9 sophomore’s first NCAA Tournament game; his alley-oops and posturizing blocks changed the game.  Wooten finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, six rebounds and four recorded blocks (but I think it was five).

"I better see him on SportsCenter," senior White said of Wooten’s performance.

White had an uncharacteristic zero point first half before heating up in the second to score 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting.

King finished with 17 points and provided huge bursts of momentum with his 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc.

Oregon executed its game plan, forcing 13 Wisconsin turnovers (entered the game averaging 9.5) and scoring 12 points off those turnovers. Not to be overlooked, the Badgers shot an atrocious 20 percent from beyond the arc, going 6-of-30 for the game.

Oregon will get a shot at its seventh trip to the Sweet 16. The 13-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters are the only thing that stand in the Ducks way. UC Irvine is also fresh off an upset victory (over No. 4 seed Kansas State) and on its own winning streak (17 games).

“We really jump on people,” Pritchard said. “I know (UC Irvine) is hot…We are going to be ready to play.“

What you need to know: Oregon Ducks basketball vs. Wisconsin Badgers

What you need to know: Oregon Ducks basketball vs. Wisconsin Badgers

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.

Fun fact: Oregon is the most bet on team AND the matchup has the lowest over-under line in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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

TV: TBS

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Oregon spoils Washington's perfect home season record

Oregon spoils Washington's perfect home season record

Oregon basketball closed the curtain on the 2018-19 regular season by spoiling Washington’s 16-0 home winning streak and what would have been the Huskies first undefeated season at home since 2004-05. The Ducks beat the Pac-12 champions, 55-47, on their senior night at Alaska Airlines Arena in front of a sell out crowd of 10,000.

Oregon will be the six seed in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, facing No 11 seeded Washington State at 8:30pm on Wednesday. The Ducks will need to win four games in a row to be Pac-12 Tournament champions and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"They know the tournament is right around the corner, they know we want to finish strong," said Altman. “We're playing for momentum.”

The Ducks got off to a great start against rival UW, leading 27-18 at halftime with much thanks to winning the rebounding battle, points in the paint, scoring points off turnovers and senior Paul White’s 10 first half points.

However, then the Ducks open the second half with three straight bad passes and allowed Washington to close the deficit to 27-22.

The Ducks struggled from three-point range, shooting 18 percent from the arc.

But the Huskies struggled even worse offensively, shooting 33 percent from the field, 15 percent from three-point range.

Washington's Jaylen Nowell wasn’t going to let UW go down without a fight. He led all shooters with 17 points.

Payton Pritchard moved into the UO top five in career steals. His finished with five steals tonight, 153 for his career, surpassing Luke Ridnour (150/2000-03), who was in attendance tonight. Pritchard led the Ducks with16 points.
The Ducks have won four straight games for the first time this season in conference play. With the tournament looming, Oregon is peaking at the right time.