ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Prior to Thursday’s 82-68 win over Duke in the Sweet 16, Oregon had won quietly.
It’s strange to call a top seed “overlooked,” but few No. 1s in recent NCAA tournament history endured a less noticeable buzz on a journey toward the Elite Eight.
The Oregon Ducks won the Pac-12. They beat Utah by 31 points in the Pac-12 tournament championship game.
And the Selection Sunday story about the Ducks centered on their slot as a top seed over Michigan State and Villanova.
Perhaps a lopsided, not-as-close-as-the-box-score-suggests victory over a powerhouse such as Duke will finally provide the acclaim most top seeds are afforded. Because the Ducks were too quick, too big and too athletic for Duke. The Blue Devils were ruined by matchup problems. Chris Boucher’s length frustrated Marshall Plumlee. Elgin Cook limited Grayson Allen to a 4-for-13 outing. Brandon Ingram looked like a top pick but also appeared to be the lone player on the Duke roster with the size and athleticism to compete with the Ducks.
Scoring wasn’t the only challenge for the Blue Devils. When they pressed late, Oregon pushed the ball. When they zoned, the Ducks found the gaps and scored. Boucher’s late dunk over Marshall Plumlee late was just one example of the struggles Duke had with Oregon’s over-the-top style.
During one sequence in the second half, Jordan Bell blocked a shot and then beat Duke down the floor for a fast-break dunk. That’s the brand of basketball Oregon used to rise to the top of the Pac-12. It’s the same method that fueled this Elite Eight run.
Duke entered this matchup outside KenPom.com’s top-100 teams for adjusted defensive efficiency. The Blue Devils led Yale by 23 points at halftime in the second round but won by only seven points after Yale launched a late rally.
A team with Oregon’s talent and length exploited that weakness and forced Duke into a late zone. But the Ducks were too good, too strong, too fast, too athletic, too fearless -- Dillon Brooks nailed a deep 3-pointer in the first half and trash-talked the Duke bench -- to lose.
Late in the game, Allen tried to foul Tyler Dorsey as he raced up the floor. But Dorsey was too quick. He kept going. And then he threw an alley-oop to Boucher.
That’s how the night went for an overmatched Duke team.