The University of Oregon Ducks are 1-4 all time in NCAA Elite 8 games, but local Ducks fans are optimistic when looking forward to today’s game against the University of Oklahoma Sooners.
The two teams will tip off at 3:09 p.m. today at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, with the winner earning a berth in the Final Four.
Despite facing the Sooners, and the team’s all-star guard in 6-foot-4 Buddy Hield who is averaging more than 25 points per game, even the most skeptical of Oregon fans gained confidence after the Ducks routed the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday, 82-68.
Ken Wood of Dillard, a season ticket holder for Oregon basketball, was at Thursday’s game and is optimistic about the Ducks’ chances going forward. He’ll be at today’s game.
“After watching the Pac-12 Tournament, I had no doubts they could advance,” said Wood who also watched the Ducks win two early round NCAA tournament games in Spokane a week ago. “They are playing really well as a team. Everybody seems to have stepped up their game a little bit.”
Wood said there was a good turnout of Oregon fans at Thursday’s game and he expects the same if not more at today’s game.
“It was pretty electric Thursday,” he said. “(Duck) Jordan Bell had a couple dunks and there were a couple other exciting plays that got the crowd into it. I think everybody (the Ducks) is confident in what they’re doing.”
Another avid Ducks fan, Gene Jenkins of Roseburg, said he was amazed by Oregon’s performance against Duke, a storied powerhouse.
“I think Coach K (of Duke) is one of the best coaches ever, and for our Ducks and Coach (Dana) Altman to take them down was just amazing,” Jenkins said.
A former Duck himself as a football player in the 1960s, Jenkins said he’s followed the sports teams ever since, making sure to gather around family and friends for the big games. Today, Jenkins will be watching the game from Palm Springs, California, with the hope of the Ducks continuing on to the Final Four.
But to get there, he said the Ducks will have to continue their streak of stout defensive pressure.
“The defense is the key and (Altman’s) got some defense that we have never seen here at Oregon before,” Jenkins said. “He’s able to get those kids to work extremely hard and if one defense isn’t working, he’ll switch it without needing to call a time out.”
Although the Sooners have been in the AP’s Top 10 rankings for most of the season, Jenkins said they rely too heavily on a single player — Buddy Heild.
“They looked really good and Oregon’s going to have to work hard, but we’ve been really good at spreading the ball around this year,” he said. “On any given night, any one of the five starters could be the high scorer, and most of the time you see very even scoring.
“If Dillon Brooks gets 15 points, the rest of the players may get 12 or 14 points, too,” he added.
Another Duck, Tom Boggs, a city of Sutherlin city councilor, spends most council meetings donning some kind of Duck paraphernalia, whether it be a hat, or an entire outfit, depending on whether it’s football season or another sport.
Boggs shared a different concern about today’s game, the offense.
“Sometimes the Ducks get (down to their basket) so quick and they take such fast shots instead of trying to run a play and I don’t think we’ll be able to do that against Oklahoma,” he said. “I was a little concerned about (the Duke game) but once I saw Oregon wasn’t intimidated, it got a lot better.”
Like Jenkins, Boggs believes in the mantra that defenses win championships, and this year’s NCAA tournament won’t be any different.
“They’ll have to play solid defense,” he said of the Ducks. “They had a big lead in the last five minutes and they let Duke start shooting those three pointers, and they know Duke is a team that averages over nine three pointers a game.”
Oregon will tip off against the Oklahoma Sooners at 3:10 p.m. today on CBS-TV for a shot at the Ducks’ second ever Final Four appearance. The last time Oregon won an Elite 8 matchup, the team went on to beat Ohio State University, 46-33, in the championship game.