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No. 1 North Carolina Tarheels vs. No. 3 Oregon Ducks
NCAA Tournament – Final Four
April 1, 8:49 pm (ET) on CBS
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Last week’s UNC-Kentucky game was the unofficial National Championship. I decided that whichever team came out on top in that nail-biter, I’d pick to win it all.
Predictions in the month of March are erratic, anyone can figure that out by looking at their bracket. Take my prediction with a grain of salt. Here are the keys to victory for both teams.
Oregon’s keys to victory
Ride the experience of Dorsey and Brooks
Guard Tyler Dorsey and forward Dillon Brooks are averaging more than 14 points per game this season. Dorsey, the point guard and leader, is a gritty player who embraces big moments. He’s been Oregon’s best weapon in the tournament, averaging 24.5 points per game.
Brooks, the 6 foot 7 forward, is clear-cut NBA talent. He hasn’t had a 20 point game in the tournament yet, but has been a solid force for the Ducks, scoring in the mid-teens and rebounding well.
Brooks will have to pick up the slack on offense for the Ducks to win this game.
Take advantage of the ankle
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II won’t be 100 percent on Saturday after rolling his ankle several times over the past few weeks; Dorsey should look to take advantage of his immobility.
For Oregon to have a chance tomorrow, Dorsey will need to score close to 30 points.
The emergence of forward Jordan Bell gives Oregon a dynamic new weapon.
The one advantage that UNC has over everyone in the country is size. Bell will have to continue his dominance on the glass if Oregon wants to keep the game close. Bell has averaged almost four more rebounds per game in the tournament (12.5) than his season average (8.6).
Cause foul trouble
With Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley in the UNC front-court, Bell is going to have a tough day. In an effort to mitigate North Carolina’s size, Bell will need to go after Hicks to induce foul trouble.
If Oregon can reduce Hick’s minutes, Meeks and Bradley might struggle to stay in front of Brooks and Bell.
To combat UNC’s size, Oregon will have to play small-ball. Oregon only has one quality big man, Bell, while the Tarheels have three. The Ducks need to quicken the pace of play, forcing UNC’s bigs to struggle going up and down the court. Dorsey and Brooks will flourish in an open-court environment.
UNC’s keys to victory
Justin Jackson needs to continue his clutch play. UNC goes through stretches where they struggle to score because they lack shooters. Jackson’s their only star shooter, so he’ll need to hit threes and clutch shots to prevent the Tar Heels from just relying on short range baskets.
UNC has the means to dominate the glass. Oregon only plays one person above six-nine, Bell, while the Tarheels play three. It’s a glaring mismatch, and the number one rebounding team in the country, UNC, needs to take advantage.
Despite UNC’s love for running and gunning, it makes sense for them to slow it down sometimes and throw it into the post. Oregon won’t be able to stop Meeks, Bradley and Hicks down low. Any foul trouble on Bell created by action down low would kill Oregon’s chances, too.
This is the main reason why I don’t see Oregon winning this game. If Oregon slows the game down, UNC’s size will take over. If Oregon speeds the game up to combat the Tarheel’s size, UNC’s depth will take over.
UNC consistently goes ten guys deep in a game, and those five bench players aren’t inept.
Campus legend, Luke Maye, has been rebounding and hitting shots left and right, including the game-winner against Kentucky.
Tony Bradley provides an inside presence that will be hard to stop, and senior guard Nate Britt can provide rest for Berry.
North Carolina’s bench also features guard Stillman White, who played well for Berry in his absence, and guard Seventh Woods, a star in the making.
In their 74-60 win over Kansas, Oregon used just three players off the bench. Two of those three, Keith Smith and Kavell Bigby-Williams, combined for only nine minutes, one point, one assist and one rebound. The other sub, Casey Benson, played 21 minutes, scoring only four points and grabbing two rebounds.
Oregon’s starting five might be great, but they lack size and depth. They’ve gotten away with it up to this point, but UNC boasts the best big men and the deepest team in the country.
Berry also said that his ankle is expected to be close to 100 percent. I doubt it is, but it shouldn’t have a huge impact on his play.
North Carolina may be the best team in the country and they match up well against Oregon. The Ducks could make it close, but the Tar Heels’ depth will ultimately overwhelm the Ducks.