Oregon men’s basketball’s run into the NCAA Tournament begins with a familiar foe. The Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers played in the second round of the Tournament in 2014 and 2015, but in 2019, the two programs face off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in San Jose, California.
Wisconsin won the first matchup in 2014 as a No. 2 see over a No. 7 seed Oregon. It wasn’t too different in 2015. Wisconsin was a No. 1 seed when it defeated No. 8 Oregon.
“We had two good games,” head coach Dana Altman said. “Came up short in both of them. Guess we’re hoping third time’s a charm.”
Oregon (23-12) couldn’t muster the upset in either appearance, but this season, Oregon enters as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Ducks are on an eight-game winning streak and were champions of the Pac-12 Tournament, earning a No. 12 seed.
“Guys are playing better,” Altman said. “There’s more confidence and a lot more energy focused in the right direction. I’m excited. I hope our team is. We know it’s a tough little four team bracket there.”
Wisconsin (23-10) finished fourth in the Big Ten and fell to eventual champion Michigan State in its conference semifinal. So, Wisconsin was placed as a No. 5 seed.
Most of the advanced metrics favor Wisconsin, yet they are only a 1-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.com.
Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Badgers’ mostly man-to-man defense this season has them as the third best defensive team in the country in regards to defensive efficiency. They are allowing 87.1 points per 100 possessions, 17 points better than the Division I average. They suffocate opponents inside the 3-point arc. Opponents shot 43.7 percent on 2-point shots against them this season — ninth best in the country, according to KenPom.com
Wisconsin’s only defensive weakness is the lack of ability to create turnovers. Both Oregon and Wisconsin play with a slow tempo, so each possession matters. If the Ducks can avoid forcing sloppy turnovers, they should get a shot on most possessions.
Oregon is 328th in the country in tempo while Wisconsin is 332nd, so this will be a slow game. The Ducks hold the advantage in offensive rebounding, and the teams are fairly even in the turnover department. Any advantage in one of those categories will lead to extra possessions for one team, and possibly the victory.
Offensively, Wisconsin is reliant on senior center Ethan Happ. He is one of the best players in the country. He is a First Team All-Big Ten player and takes 32.1 percent of Wisconsin’s shots, and he is eighth in the country in usage percentage. He’s fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.5 points per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the field.
Oregon big men Kenny Wooten and Francis Okoro will have their hands full.