After #1 seed Gonzaga dispatched #11 Xavier, 83-59, to capture the West region, sending the Bulldogs to the Final Four for the first time in school history, the stage was set for more drama as #1 Kansas squared off with #3 Oregon in the Midwest regional final.
Under coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks have had issues advancing to the pinnacle of college basketball. Kansas entered the fray 2-4 in Elite Eight games, putting pressure on the squad in front of 18,000+ fans in partisan Kansas City.
Oregon was facing its own moment in history. The team had not been to the Final Four since 1939, when Oregon captured the national championship.
As the game unfolded, it became clear that Oregon was better prepared and organized for the effort, seizing the lead after just four minutes of play and never looking back en route to a 74-60 victory.
A true team effort, the Ducks played magnificent defense and made shots when they mattered, led by the game's high scorer, Tyler Dorsey, who made six three-pointers in an overall 9-for-13 effort, going 3-for-4 from the foul line, Oregon was on the mark, shooting 50.9% from the field, making 11 of 25 threes (44%).
On the defensive end and in the paint - where Oregon dominated - it was all about Jordan Bell. The 6'9" junior has stepped up his game since the Ducks lost Chris Boucher to injury nearing the end of the conference tournament and he was the proverbial unmovable object in the lane against Kansas, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 13 rebounds (7 offensive), 8 blocked shots and foour assists.
If Dorsey's 27 points was the highlight for the offense, Bell's unselfish, cagey play on the interior was the heart of Oregon's defensive effort, holding Kansas - which had averaged 96 points in three tournament games coming in - to their season low in scoring, on 35% shooting and a horrific 5-for-25 from beyond the arc.
Kansas once again failed in its quest for the Final Four (now 2-5 in Elite Eight games under Bill Self), but it wasn't so much a failure on their part, but successful strategy and superior execution and defense by the Ducks that made the game.
The Ducks will face the winners of Sunday's North Carolina-Kentucky South regional final which tips at 5:05 pm ET. Gonzaga will meet the winner of the East regional final between #4 Florid and #7 South Carolina which goes off at 2:20 pm ET. Both games are being broadcast live on CBS.
NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Saturday (3/25) Games
|Conference (# of teams)||Record||Winners (# of Wins)|
|ACC (9)||8-8||Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (3)|
|Big East (7)||6-7||Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)|
|Big Ten (7)||8-7||Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)|
|Big 12 (6)||9-6||Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)|
|SEC (5)||10-2||Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (3)|
|PAC 12 (4)||10-3||USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (4), UCLA (2)|
|Atlantic 10 (3)||1-3||Rhode Island (1)|
|American (2)||1-2||Cincinnati (1)|
|West Coast (2)||5-1||Gonzaga (4), St. Mary's (1)|
|All Others (23)||(4-23)||Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)|