Head coach Dana Altman’s defense might be even more dangerous, as Oregon can play several different styles to stifle its opponents.
The Ducks employed a matchup zone in their Elite Eight win over Kansas this past Saturday, and they did so with great success. They held potential top-10 pick Josh Jackson to just 10 points and forced the Jayhawks to shoot 35 percent (21-of-60) from the floor — including 20 percent (5-of-25) from three.
Oregon also blocked eight Kansas shots in a performance indicative of the Ducks’ entire season. The team sends back a whopping 17 percent of its opponents’ two-point attempts — best in the country — and ranks second in the nation in blocks per game (6.3).
Who stands out?
While most of the attention this season has gone to forward and Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks, the player who is most responsible for the Ducks’ Final Four run is guard Tyler Dorsey.
The sophomore from Los Angeles has earned the nickname “Mr. March” for his play during the NCAA Tournament, where he has averaged 24.5 points while shooting a stellar 65.4 percent from deep. He’s also no stranger to late-game heroics. In both the Round of 32 and Sweet 16 games, Dorsey hit the final shot to keep his team alive.
Then there’s Jordan Bell.
Bell, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, tallied 11 points, 13 rebounds and four assists against Kansas. Oh, and he accounted for all eight of Oregon’s blocks. North Carolina — a team that likes to feed the ball inside and drive the basket — will have to think twice before testing Bell in the paint.
What’s their weakness?
What might be the Ducks’ undoing is how they choose to match up with the Tar Heels on Saturday.
Justin Jackson, standing at 6-foot-8, presented all sorts of problems for Kentucky’s 6-foot-3 Isaiah Briscoe last Saturday. The North Carolina wing was able to shoot over his defender, both from behind the three-point line and while driving the lane.
Oregon will have to make a tough decision when choosing who guards Jackson. The Ducks could opt for 6-foot-7 Brooks to combat Jackson’s length, but that would leave 6-foot-4 Dorsey to guard 6-foot-9 Isaiah Hicks.
Why could they win?
UNC has seen mixed results when attacking zone defenses this season. The Tar Heels cracked under the pressure of the 1-3-1 against Georgia Tech in their ACC opener, but they tore Butler apart in the Sweet 16 when the Bulldogs pulled out the zone.
Oregon’s defense is most similar to Louisville’s — which UNC bested in a 74-63 win on Feb. 22 — but it could pose a bigger problem if the Tar Heels aren’t knocking down their shots.
If North Carolina struggles to find open spaces outside of the paint, it could spell victory for the Ducks.