Ducks look to make historic run in NCAA Tournament Friday
The Ducks made history during the 2016 season when they beat No. 23 Tulsa in the first round for the first ever tournament win in program history. The 2017 Ducks, however, have their sights set to Georgia and beyond as they are set to begin the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Memphis.
The No. 24 Ducks will head into the tournament coming off the most historic and record-filled season in program history. The Ducks finished the season ranked inside the ITA top 25 for the 10th-consecutive week, a program record.
Oregon is the No. 2 seed in the College Station regional and takes on Memphis at 12 p.m. on Friday in the tournament’s first round. With a win, the Ducks would take on the winner of Buffalo and Texas A&M, the host of the regional.
On paper, all signs point to Oregon having to go through the Aggies, the No. 12 overall seed in the tournament. Two of the top 25 teams in the country facing off would surely be tabbed as one of the top matches in the tournament’s second round.
While the Ducks are aware that Texas A&M might await them down the road, all attention is currently focused on a gritty Memphis team that stands in their way.
Coming out of the American Athletic Conference, Memphis received an at-large bid for its fifth tournament appearance in the past six seasons. Head coach Paul Goebel led the Tigers to their first-ever NCAA team appearance in 2012 and has experienced growth in the program since. Memphis fell in the first round with a 4-1 loss to Mississippi State in last season’s tournament.
The Tigers haven’t experienced the amount of success over the regular season that the Ducks have, but they have been battle tested. 11 of their 23 matches came against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
The Ducks’ success will rely heavily on their doubles performance: 15 of their 18 wins came after winning the early doubles point.
No. 24 Thomas Laurent, who qualified for the NCAA Singles Championships, will be expected to lead the way in singles if the Ducks want to make a serious run. The sophomore is looking for his 30th win of the season.
One would expect that competing in the Pac-12 against No. 4 USC, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Cal and No. 16 Stanford should benefit the Ducks during intense moments they might face in the tournament’s early rounds.
Oregon might not have seen the last of its conference foes, either. The Ducks could potentially face UCLA in the Round of 16 and USC in the quarterfinals should they advance that far.
If the Ducks advance out of the College Station Regional, they will advance to Georgia for the Round of 16 for the first time in school history.
The 2017 season has been a great one for the Ducks. Time will tell if it can be historic.
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich
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