<
>

More than words: Oregon wins through its selflessness

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Lost in the postgame controversy of Oregon's 82-68 win over Duke in the Sweet 16 on Thursday was an image. Multiple images, really.

Every time the Ducks dunked or swatted a shot into the stands or threw an alley-oop to a teammate or picked off a Blue Devils pass, the Ducks celebrated. Not just the playmaker, but the entire squad. The other four players on the court. The coaches. The reserves. The managers. The trainers.

On Selection Sunday, every program suggests its "selfless" ways fueled its entry into the NCAA tournament. And within days, selfish moments and decisions force their exits.

But Oregon lives the creed.

Seven Ducks -- Casey Benson, Chris Boucher, Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin, Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell -- average 20.0 minutes per game or more. Three other players average eight minutes or more off the bench.

"When anybody asks, I say we've got seven starters," Oregon coach Dana Altman said entering Thursday's game. "I'm not afraid to rotate our top seven in any direction."

The one-and-done era makes that philosophy difficult to employ and hard to manage. Altman can't do it alone.

Players must agree to sacrifice valuable minutes and opportunities for the team. That's every team's story, right?

But it's Oregon’s truth. When the Ducks pushed the ball against the Blue Devils, they looked for the best play. Brooks (team-high 22 points) got hot, so his teammates fed him throughout the game. Cook locked up Duke's Grayson Allen and scored 16 points. Bell had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks off the bench.

"It's just buying into winning," Benson said Friday. "Buying into everybody's role and doing what's best for the team. At the end of the day, we want to win. That's the most important thing. It's fun, so we've had a blast this year. To continue to have this opportunity to play for a Final Four is special."

Added Boucher: "I think it's just the strengths of our team. Sharing the ball is always great, and we have a lot of guys that are talented on our team, so sharing the ball just makes us a better team."

The Ducks finished Thursday's game with 22 assists (a 69 percent assist rate, per KenPom.com).

It takes only one ego to ruin that flow, though. One bad attitude.

You won't find one in the Oregon locker room.

The Ducks play Mario Kart together on road trips. And they rallied around Brooks when his postgame exchange with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski became a national story.

A Pac-12 powerhouse that plays on the West Coast might be mysterious to many. That win over Duke, however, allowed Oregon to prove it's an elite team with national-championship-level talent.

That's undeniable. They fly down the court and it seems as if every young man on the roster is 6-foot-7 with a ridiculous wingspan, uncanny agility and the bounce of a hare.

Beyond the obvious, however, is a selflessness that emerges in their mosh-pit celebrations and the way they all share their offensive and defensive responsibilities.

"Everybody just has one goal and that's to win," Benjamin said. "Nobody cares who's getting all the buckets, who's getting all the shots. These guys ... they just want to win. That's how our talent shows. That's why it's so difficult to guard us."