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Ignore the fact that Oregon is a 12-seed this year because no one can really explain it. The Ducks have one of the more impressive routes so far in the NCAA Tournament with back-to-back wins over an Oklahoma State team led by an NBA lottery pick and Saint Louis who everyone thought had the Sweet 16 locked up. These weren't easy games for them, yet somehow, Oregon dominated in both of them. Sure, the Billikens couldn't hit a shot, but there's a reason for that. Oregon is playing really good basketball right now and has won five straight games overall, yet for some reason the committee didn't recognize them as a higher seed.
The only problem for them is that Louisville has the better squad and they are also playing really well. How else do you explain their last win over Colorado State in which they forced the Rams to commit the most turnovers they've had all season? Not only do the Cardinals have a defense that creates opportunities, but also an offense that you just don't want to mess with. Louisville is -10 point favorites here because they are playing really, really good and even though Oregon is rolling, it's going to be very hard for anyone to get by them.
The Cardinals game starts on the defensive end with the guards up front. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are a nuisance to opposing back courts. The two already have a combined 16 steals in just two games. While Oregon has some great guards in Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd, they do have a problem with turning the ball over. As a team, they are 299th in the country in turnovers per game on the year. In their first two games, they gave the ball away 18 times in each contest. If you do that against Louisville, you're not going to win by 17 points. That score line will probably be the opposite if they turn it over 18 times again. The Ducks have been able to combat those turnovers (so far) with great shooting and rebounding. Damyean Dotson has been on fire with 40 total points awhile Arsalan Kazemi has been beasting the boards with 33 total rebounds. Those numbers are well above their season averages, but they haven't played Louisville yet.
Is Kazemi really going to be able to get 17 boards over Gorgui Dieng who is just as athletic yet stands four inches taller than him? Will Dotson get good looks with Smith and Siva harassing the ball handlers? These are two main areas of Oregon's game that have been working lately, but they will have a much harder time in this game.
Scoring wise for Louisville, Smith has been on fire with 50 points in two games. Not many teams can stop his combined quickness and shooting ability especially with Siva getting him the ball. Dieng will likely matchup with the bigger Tony Woods, but his length could be a real factor on the offensive end. The Cardinals bench will also prove to be too much as they go nine deep. Oregon's main threats off the bench are Carlos Emory and Loyd. Emory can be a problem with his size and athleticism as Louisville's forwards don't have his kind of quickness. Loyd can make plays off the bench, but he also turns it over a lot (nine times in the last two games).
That chip on Oregon's shoulder for being labeled a 12-seed should be gone by now because they already showed everyone they were more than that. Beating the No. 1 overall team is going to take a very good shooting day along with minimal turnovers which is just something we haven't seen from them. If Louisville can force turnovers (which they should), the game will open up giving the Cardinals the advantage.
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