VCU Awaits Ducks In Big Dance
Oregon will face Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Saturday, with the Ducks earning the No. 7 seed into the tournament's West Region. The Rams and Oregon will tip at 6:57 p.m. Pacific Time on TNT.
The Ducks enter the tournament as Pac-12 regular-season champions, but stinging from a loss to rival Oregon State in the semifinals of the conference tournament Friday. Oregon will play in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the last eight opportunities, with the 2020 event having been canceled by the pandemic.
"It's a big moment, especially for me, and I know it's a big moment for the guys also, with a few of us not being there before," said UO senior Eugene Omoruyi, who joined the program as a transfer last year. "Now it's just time to lock in and go there, do what we gotta do."
Oregon enters the NCAA Tournament at 20-6 overall, having gone 14-4 to win the Pac-12 regular-season title. The Ducks were one of five conference teams to make the Big Dance, along with USC, the No. 6 seed in the West Region; Midwest Region No. 12 seed Oregon State; East Region No. 5 seed Colorado; and UCLA, which faces Michigan State on Thursday in a "First Four" game.
This year's tournament will be played entirely in and around Indianapolis, across six venues to open the tournament before the Final Four is played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Colts. The Ducks had what coach Dana Altman called "a spirited practice" Sunday in Eugene, and could travel to Indianapolis as early as Monday, he said.
"It's going to be a unique situation for all the coaches, for all the players, to go and experience," Altman said. "I hope our guys are excited about that challenge."
Virginia Commonwealth lost Sunday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament final to St. Bonaventure, dropping the Rams to 19-7 on the season. VCU was 10-4 in conference play during the regular season, finishing a half-game behind the Bonnies.
The Ducks and Rams have met once before, a 77-63 victory for VCU in November 2014, the final season there for head coach Shaka Smart before he moved to Texas. This year's team, coached by former Smart assistant Mike Rhoades, is 12th nationally in defensive efficiency according to analytics compiled by Ken Pomeroy. The Rams are fifth nationally with 9.4 steals per game and fourth with 5.4 blocked shots per game.
"When Shaka got them going they were always pressing and running," Altman said. "So I'm sure it'll be a very athletic team that'll get after us."
Along with the scouting report, the Ducks will be focused this week on elements of their own play to clean up. In the loss to the Beavers, Oregon struggled to block out on the boards and had breakdowns in their defensive switches that allowed some easy baskets. The Ducks also were stagnant moving the ball, Altman said, which led to "an unbelievable amount of threes off the dribble, which is not a high-percentage shot for anybody."
Will the loss to Oregon State motivate the Ducks to bounce back Saturday in the NCAA Tournament?
"Every team's different," Altman said. "How this team responds will be totally up to them."
Omoruyi sounded up to the task Sunday followed the tournament selection show.
"We wanted this at the beginning of the year," he said. "We didn't finish off Vegas the way we wanted to. But now it's time to refocus. It's a bigger prize, and we've gotta be locked in."