It was a fun Sweet 16 and Elite 8 for both of these teams and playing solid basketball on both ends of the cOurt was the main reason for that. SChools from opposite ends of the country, North Carolina and Oregon will meet in Glendale, Arizona in the Final Four with the Tar Heels opening as -4.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
The Ducks’ run has been improbable, but not exactly unwarranted. They battled to come back against Rhode Island, held a hot Michigan team down to win by a point and then stopped a Kansas team to 60 points that had reached 90 in the three previous Games. It wasn’t easy, or pretty at times, but the Ducks deserve to be here due to a great defensive display and just enough on the offensive end.
The same can be said for North Carolina, which almost gave the Game away against Arkansas before a late run, coasted against Butler and then found some late-Game heroics in LUke Maye to top Kentucky last round. The difference is that the Tar Heels were supposed to be here as the 1-seed, but that doesn’t matter all that much now.
Oregon has yet to miss Chris Boucher in the NCAA Tournament, but that could easily change in this matchup. Jordan Bell has been dominant in the paint for the Ducks, but without fellow big man Boucher against the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, Bell may not be enough. Kavell Bigby-Williams will likely have to play more than he’s used to. So far in the Tournament, Oregon has yet to see a team that attacks the paint/glass as much as UNC, since Kansas and Michigan were mostly built around guards and stretching the floor. The Heels take an opposite approach with an array of bigs in Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Maye and Tony Bradley. If one guy is struggling, Roy Williams can turn to three other options and that was kind of the case with Maye against Kentucky.
Oregon is playing great defense through its zone and varied amounts of press, but give up a ton of size in this Game. Bell has been a force down low, but could have trouble dealing with Meeks in the post and the same can be said for anyone that has to deal with Hicks. The Ducks will likely run through different kinds of zones and that could work against a UNC team that doesn’t shoot well, but there’s only so much you can do against a team with so much size. That size also runs in leading scorer Justin Jackson, who Oregon doesn’t really have anyone to match him up with, while point guard Joel Berry has picked up his play over the last two.
So while the Ducks have been winning through defense, this matchup is completely different than anything they’ve faced so far. Offensively, Oregon at least has the weapons to succeed. The question will be if Bell can be as effective on the offensive glass against the UNC bigs. If not, his scoring may be limited while Tyler Dorsey will probably be matched up with Theo Pinson, who just dealt with De’Aaron Fox fairly well. Dorsey has scored at least 20 points in seven-straight Games, but Pinson provides size and athleticism that could cause problems.
For Oregon to win this Game or at least stay competitive, it will need the best Game of the Tournament from Dillon Brooks, who has kind of taken a backseat so far. Brooks has the ability to go off and be a playmaker, but he hasn’t surpassed 19 points in the first Four Games. The interesting thing is that he could be matched up with guys like Hicks and Maye instead of Jackson as Oregon plays small ball with the 6-foot-7 Brooks at the Four-spot. If Brooks doesn’t go to that next level, it could be a tough Game unless some unsung players step up like 25-year-old Dylan Ennis (12 pts vs. Kansas), Casey Benson or Payton Pritchard.
Oregon is playing great, but North Carolina’s size could hurt them similar to what Arizona did against the Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament championship. The Tar Heels use their bigs even more than the Wildcats, so that will be the first order of business if the Ducks want to pull off another upset.
Our Pick – North Carolina -4.5