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Ducks Garner Eight Seed, Off to Omaha

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne criteria the NCAA committee usually looks for in rewarding an at-large bid to a particular team is how they played down the stretch.

Oregon had that one in the bag.

The Ducks went 11-2 in their last 13 games, including two wins over No. 17 Utah and the committee promptly “rewarded” Oregon for those efforts. At 25-9, the Ducks are dancing in Omaha as an 8 seed to play 9 seed Oklahoma State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

An 8 seed seems quite high given the fact Oregon had a better record, finished higher than and defeated Utah twice. But somehow the Utes are on the 5 seed line.

Should Oregon get by the Cowboys. the Ducks will mostly take on 1 seed Wisconsin for a trip to the Sweet 16. The Ducks beat OSU in the second round of the 2013 tourney and lost to Wisconsin in the third round last season.

But at the beginning of the season, the Big Dance wasn’t exactly on the Ducks’ radar screen. Oregon was facing the daunting task of assimilating six newcomers into the program and hoping they would eventually mesh.

The Pac-12 media picked the Ducks to finish eighth.

Oregon surprised everyone, maybe even themselves, to go 8-1 in the second half of the conference schedule for a second place finish at 13-5.

It was generally agreed upon that Oregon was in the tournament even before the Pac-12 tourney in Las Vegas, but the Ducks made sure their bid was solidified with a very strong performance in Sin City.

The Ducks dispatched Colorado with a second half offensive explosion to take out the Buffs 93-85, setting up the second game in two weeks against Utah.

As it turned out, it was the game of the year for Oregon.

Both teams traded leads for virtually the entire 40 minutes, but fortunately for the Ducks, Joe Young had the ball in his hands with six seconds to go. The Pac-12 Player of the Year made his March Madness moment by draining a 30-footer with 1.1 seconds on the clock to give Oregon the win.

Although Arizona took care of the Ducks easily in the championship game, Oregon went against all odds to reach the Big Dance for a third straight season.

     ~ Don Smalley

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