Wisconsin knew that they were going to get a test out of the Oregon Ducks, but they didn't know just how close Dana Altman's team was going to play them, especially in the crucial last 10 minutes of the second half. Despite a late push by the Ducks, the Badgers held on and scored 72-65 victory; they will move on to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
Wisconsin got off to a good start over Oregon after a Nigel Hayes layup gave the Badgers an 8-2 lead with just under 17 minutes to play in the first half. Wisconsin looked to take advantage of Young's cold shooting start, as it got out to a 19-9 lead after a three pointer from the top of the key by Duje Dukan, his only field goal of the day. But as scorers usually do, Joseph Young got himself and his teammates going and rallied Oregon back into the game after connecting on 5 of his next 7 shots. Young set Jordan Bell up with a layup which cut the Badger lead down to 4 with just over 6 minutes to play in the first half.
Wisconsin came out in the second half with a defined purpose. Koening and Dekker scored back-to-back buckets right out of the gate to push the Badger lead back up to 8 at 36-28, but the Ducks weren't going down without a fight. Both teams fought back and forth, and Oregon began clawing its way back to tie the game at 52 with 6 minutes remaining after a three pointer by Dwayne Benjamin.
Wisconsin notched up the intensity on both ends of the floor to shut down the Ducks. Dekker made a reverse layup through a feed by Kaminsky and then hit a three point jumper to give the Badgers a 58-52 lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Dekker would finish with a team-high 17 points, and the Badgers hit their free throws down the stretch to outlast the Ducks.
What We Learned
Wisconsin is More Vulnerable on the Glass than we Thought
The Badgers rank 23rd in the nation with a +6.1 rebounding margin over their opponents, but the Badgers let a smaller Ducks team control the battle of the boards. Though Oregon's 34-32 rebounding advantage wasn't too significant, the statistic raises concern for the Badgers as they'll go up against the team with the seventh best rebounding margin in the NCAA in the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Heels average a +8.1 rebounding margin over their opponents, and could look to take advantage on the glass against the Badgers in the Sweet 16.
The Badgers allowed the Ducks 10 extra opportunities from offensive rebounds. The Ducks are a guard-oriented team that doesn't play a player over 6'9", so the fact that they were able to have their way on the boards should be a focal point for Bo Ryan's team going into Thursday's match up against the Tar Heels. The Badgers will meet some athletic and physical forwards in Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, so they will need to be good on the glass.
Joesph Young Can Compete with the Best Teams in the Nation
He was the Pac 12 player of the year for a reason, so it was no surprise that Joseph Young was able to keep his team fighting against the Big Ten Champion Wisconsin Badgers. Young finished with 30 points and also dealt out 4 assists. He certainly played well against the Badgers who didn't give him too many opportunities or great looks; Young created his own offense, set up his teammates with good looks, and put the Ducks in position to win the game.
The Badgers will see a very similar player in Marcus Paige when they square off with North Carolina on Thursday. Paige averages 14.1 points per game, which leads his team, and is also the leading facilitator with 4.5 assists per contest. Paige led the Tar Heels with 22 points in North Carolina's most recent win over Arkansas. Wisconsin will need to keep him in check if they want to move on to the Elite Eight.
Reaching the Final Four will be no Cake Walk for the Badgers
Sure, Wisconsin may be the top-seeded team in the west region of the bracket, but the North Carolina Tar Heels and Arizona Wildcats may have something to say about that next weekend. The only thing that we know is that there are three (and you could even say four if you count Xavier) physical and aggressive teams fighting for a trip to Indianapolis in the west. This is the region of the forwards, and even though Frank Kaminsky has certainly asserted himself as one of the best in the land, you can't forget about North Carolina's Brice Johnson, Xavier's Matt Stainbrook, and Arizona's Stanley Johnson.
Whatever team(s) the Badgers end up facing from here on out, it will be physical and hard-fought on both ends of the floor. Playing in the Big Ten has undeniably prepared the Badgers for this kind of post-season test, but there are still a number of good teams standing in the way between Wisconsin and a second straight Final Four appearance.
The Badgers picked up another solid win after outlasting the Ducks, and will certainly be tested by the Tar Heels on Thursday. A match up between these two teams was looming in the pre-season when both were placed in the field of the Battle for Atlantis, but an early round exit by the Tar Heels led the Badgers to face Oklahoma in the championship game instead.
Oregon's season is over, but Dana Altman's team is certainly on the rise. When most people think of Oregon, they think of football, but the Ducks have fought their way to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and have won 4 games in the tourney during those appearances. Though Joseph Young will certainly be missed, the Ducks have some solid underclassmen in Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell to build their program back.