GLENDALE, Ariz. - You know you've got it going on when someone in the social media world creates a meme about you achieving superhuman feats. Take the shot-blocking prowess of Oregon forward Jordan Bell, for instance.
A search of #ThingsJordanBellCouldBlock on Twitter produces memes of Bell blocking a variety of items, including: A meteor from hitting the earth, the Titanic from sinking, the Death Star from destroying a planet and the Auburn kicker from making the winning field goal against Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.
What's not available yet are images of Bell blocking the shots from Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Austin Jackson and Luke Maye. They make up North Carolina's five players 6-foot-8 or better that will be attacking the 6-9 Bell when the Tar Heels (31-7) and Ducks (33-5) meet in Saturday's Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Bell, who had eight blocks last week against Kansas in the Elite eight, will have to contend with all five of those Tar Heels, and a few more from their 10-man rotation, in order for the Ducks to win a game in which North Carolina has a decided size advantage. The Tar Heels plan to give him plenty of opportunities. NC's game plan is to attack Oregon's lone impact big man.
“We’re going to try to go at him and hopefully get him in foul trouble,” Maye said.
“The best thing to do to a shot blocker is to just go right at him,” said Hicks. “Don’t give him a chance to block it.”
Many teams have tried to do just that and have failed. Namely the Jayhawks. They kept going inside and Bell kept rejecting their shot. Those Bell didn't block, he either altered or impacted with his mere presence.
“He’s a grown man in the paint,” Bradley said. “It’s going to be a great challenge."
Oregon coach Dana Altman said Bell has taken his game to another level since the Pac-12 Tournament when the team learned that 6-10 senior forward Chris Boucher would be lost for the season. Junior Kavell Bigby-Williams offers size at 6-10, but hasn't shown that he is ready to make big contributions in big games.
In UO's first game without Boucher, the Ducks lost 83-80 to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game while having some trouble inside against the Wildcats. That has changed since, and Bell is the key reason why.
"That dude is a freak," NC forward Theo Pinson said.
Hicks said what makes Bell special is his ability to anticipate the shot, and "having the ability to jump quick." He said shooters have to be mindful of Bell after beating the man guarding them.
“Most of (his blocks) come from the weakside so you’ve got to be aware of that," Hicks said. "You’ve got to know that you have an open teammate when you drop to the basket because he’s going to help. "
Junior All-American Justin Jackson said the Tar Heels must be savvy against Bell.
"I think there are going to be a lot of times where there are going to be pump fakes involved, or drop offs involved," Jackson said. "It will be key to try to get him in foul trouble."
The problem there is that Bell averages just 1.7 personal fouls per game, has fouled out only once this season while reaching four fouls only once since November, and has has committed just three personal fouls in four NCAA Tournament games with 12 blocked shots.
"I think part of it has just been his focus," Altman said. "And he's risen to the occasion. I think he knew when Chris went down that there was going to be more pressure on him to perform. And fortunately for us he's handled that pressure very well."
The bottom line for UO is that if Bell can be disruptive on defense, the Ducks have a chance to win. If not, and if NC's bigs can get to the basket and score, Oregon's season ends on Saturday.