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Kim: With the postseason coming soon, Tyler Dorsey could prove to be Oregon’s ‘X-Factor’

Tyler Dorsey’s goals have been clear from the beginning: Help Oregon win the Pac-12 and make a deep run in March. It’s what he said in early January when I sat down with him and it’s what he’s saying now with just three games remaining in the regular season.

As Oregon’s highest touted freshman recruit since Dana Altman arrived in 2010, Dorsey appears to be in position to help the Ducks do just that.

His teammates and coaches agree that Dorsey is a huge part of Oregon’s success. And while Dorsey has been inconsistent this season — averaging 11.8 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting and 34.4 on 3-pointers in Pac-12 play — Dillon Brooks has gone as far as saying he is the “X-factor” for the team.

“He’s a hard worker and a great player,” Brooks said. “When he gets it going from three, we’re really hard to stop.”

Dorsey may be a true freshman fresh off his 19th birthday, but his age doesn’t reflect what he brings to the table. When Dorsey gets going like he recently did against in-state rival Oregon State, tying his career-high of 25 points, this currently No. 13 ranked Oregon team (22-6, 11-4 Pac-12), is hard to beat.

“We kept telling him to play like he did in the preseason, when he was always in attack mode,” Boucher said after the Oregon State game. “He came out in attack mode and when he plays like that, he really helps the team.”

Dorsey is the only player on this roster that has been projected as a NBA draft pick in this year’s draft if he were to forgo his sophomore season. Both Dorsey and his parents haven’t ruled out this option, as they will evaluate what’s best for him after the season.

Just last year, the entire country witnessed two freshmen, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, lead Duke over a veteran Wisconsin team in the national championship.

What did they prove?

They proved that teams with talented freshman that perform on the big stage can make it deep in the NCAA tournament.

This is not to compare this Oregon team to last year’s national champions, but this does show how important a player like Dorsey could be in March.

Brooks will be expected to lead this team in points and minutes as he has all season, Elgin Cook will be looked to provide veteran leadership as one of the lone seniors on this team with tournament experience and Boucher will be counted on to be the shot blocking presence in the paint he’s been all season.

But, if  Oregon wants any shot at making the Sweet Sixteen and further, it’s going to need one of its underclassmen to make a leap, just like Brooks did a year ago. That player needs to be Dorsey.

This is a time when big time players separate themselves from perennial role players. We’ll see if Dorsey is ready to take that next step.

“I’m just excited and happy,” Dorsey said as he reflected on his freshman season before the Oregon State game. “Every minute, every possession, we got to take seriously. We’re in the hunt, but we got to finish off strong.”

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

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Hayden Kim

Hayden Kim