Oregon's comeback falls short, lose 77-76 to North Carolina

Oregon's comeback falls short, lose 77-76 to North Carolina

North Carolina 77, Oregon 76 

How Oregon lost: No. 3 Oregon (33-6) had a chance to steal this game in the end but twice failed to secure an offensive rebound after No. 1 North Carolina (32-7) missed four free throws in the final six seconds of this Final Four matchup Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws with the Tar Heels up 77-76 with 5.8 seconds remaining but Theo Pinson grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Joel Berry II, who was then fouled by Tyler Dorsey with 4.0 seconds remaining.

Berry then proceeded to miss two free throws, but this time it was Meeks who who grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Pinson, who ran out the clock for the win. 

That ended what had been a gutty performance by the outmatched Ducks, who were down by as much as 10 in the second half. But despite poor overall performances by Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, the Ducks were able to battle back and had a chance to win it late. 

North Carolina will face No. 1 Gonzaga in the championship game. The Bulldogs won 77-74 over No. 6 South Carolina in the day's first game.

The first half produced some odd basketball. Oregon struggled to hold on to the ball while NC couldn't make shots. At one point early, UO had committed six turnovers and NC was shooting 17.6 percent from the field. Oregon fought of its turnoves to build a 30-22 lead with 4:07 remaining in the half.  The Tar Heels then began making shots but Oregon continued to cough uup the ball. The Ducks finished with 12 turnovers in the first half. NC raised its shooting percentage to 40 percent by making seven of their last eight attempts, and consequently went on a 9-4 run to close the half and lead 39-36. 

Dorsey, clearly disrupted by NC's perimeter length on defense, missed all four of his shot attempts in the first half to finish with four points on free throws. Brooks also struggled, making 2 of 7 shots for six points. 

Oregon wasn't helped by an apparent ankle injury to Jordan Bell, who left the game for a couple of minutes before returning, but appeared to be bothered by the injury. 

Pritchard scored the team's first five points but three personal fouls limited him to six minutes of action in the first half. 

Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds. Justin Jackson scored 22 for North Carolina. 

What it means: Oregon advanced to its first Final Four since 1939 but came away empty. Still, this was the greatest season since then and is something the program can be proud of. Still, coming so close to defeating the Tar Heels here tonight will sting for some time. 

Key sequence: NC led 56-49 with 11:57 remaining in the game. At this point, Dorsey and Brooks are a combined 3 of 14. UO was 4 of 14 as a team in the half, including 1 of 8 on threes. 

Dorsey finally hit his first three-point shot while in transition off of a miss by Jackson to make it 56-52. But Pinson answered with a wide-open three for NC. The Tar Heels went on to methodically build a 71-62 lead with 5:54 remaining.

But the Ducks would not go away. Dorsey hit some free throws - he made 12 of 12 on the night - and Ennis made a three. Dorsey hit one of his three three-point field goals and then made another to make the score 77-74 with 46 seconds remaining.

Keith Smith got a made layup off of an assist from Ennis following a missed Pinson jumper and that set up the final seconds of action.

High-flying Ducks: Ennis had 18 points on 7 of 19 shooting. Jordan Bell gave the Ducks 13 points and 16 rebounds with four blocked shots. 

Fowl play: Dorsey scored 21 points but made just 3 of 11 shots. Brooks finished with 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting and had five turnovers before fouling out late in the second half.

His presence was missed down the stretch. 

Oregon committed a whopping 12 turnovers in the first half. 

Oregon shot 37.9 percent from the field. 

Up next:  Oregon will wait and see if Dorsey, Bell and/or Brooks head for the NBA along with seniors, Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis. If two of the three return, the Ducks could be back here again next season. 

Ducks aren't done writing their story

Ducks aren't done writing their story

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Oregon traveled to Arizona for the Final Four with a friendly reminder onboard of the heights the basketball program has achieved in the past and what the goal is this weekend in the desert. 

The Ducks brought with them the 1939 national championship trophy won by the "Tall Firs" back when the team was actually called the Webfoots. 

Current players took photos of and with the trophy, touched it and allowed its inspiration to soak in. 

"It’s a motivation to bring another one back," UO junior forward Dillon Brooks said.

As sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey put it, the Ducks aren't ready to close this chapter. 

“We’re definitely making history and that should be talked about, but we have to keep writing the history and win the national championship," he said. "We’re not done, yet, and we know that as a team."

No. 3 Oregon (32-5) will play No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

For the Tar Heels, who have now been to 20 Final Fours with five national championships, it's a chance to atone for last year's heartbreaking, 77-74 loss to Villanova in the championship game on a buzzer beater. 

“They are experienced and they want to get back to that game," Dorsey said.

Oregon has already tasted its own form of redemption by reaching the Final Four after losing badly last season to Oklahoma in the Elite Eight. As for the Tar Heels' goals, Brooks said they aren't Oregon's concern. 

“We faced a lot of hot teams, a lot of teams that had motivation to go far, like Michigan, Kansas and Rhode Island," Brooks said. "We just try to crush that all down and try to play our game and really be confident in ourselves.”

UO coach Dana Altman said the Ducks have done well sticking to their routine. 

"It was a little easier the last two weekends because there wasn't all the hype and the media and so forth," he said. "But we're going to try to keep it as close to our routine as possible, and try to get the guys to focus on the game Saturday. And we get to practice here when we get done with all this in just a little bit and hopefully get them refocused and ready to go for North Carolina."

Oregon isn't losing out on any fun. They have enjoyed themselves. The idea is to not allow the fun to interfere with the goals.

“Now we have to set a new mindset,” UO forward Jordan Bell said. “It’s another four-team tournament. We’ve got to win this tournament and if we win it, it’s finally done and we can celebrate it.”

The 1939 trophy serves as a reminder. 

“It was a great feeling to have that there,” Brooks said.

A companion for that national title trophy can't be had on Monday, however, if the Ducks don't win on Saturday. 

“We can be out of here Saturday if we lose that game," Dorsey said. "So, we’re going to enjoy the process. We’re going to soak it all up. It’s an experience of a lifetime that many people don’t get. You definitely have to enjoy it in the moment.”

The real star of Oregon's Final Four push? The coach!

The real star of Oregon's Final Four push? The coach!

I've talked to several NBA people I know about the Oregon Ducks and I'm getting the same evaluation from just about all of them:

Coach Dana Altman has done an amazing job with that team.

Oregon heads to the Final Four this week without a big-time superstar. Without a lottery pick in the NBA draft, maybe even without a first-round pick in the draft. You aren't supposed to do that. At least you aren't supposed to do that if you have a legitimate chance to win the whole thing -- which the Ducks most certainly have.

But Oregon plays together, plays extremely hard and defends. Really defends. It's an athletic bunch and Altman has done something that a lot of college coaches can't seem to accomplish -- he's getting the most from the team's athleticism while retaining a degree of discipline. The Ducks are quick, fast and physical -- but they are seldom out of control. They are able to harness all that athleticism without going into a crazy, undisciplined style.

The win over Kansas was stunning. Not only was it more of a road game than any team is supposed to play in an NCAA tournament, it was against a team with more talent than the Ducks. Coming next is a game against North Carolina, which again, has more talent than Oregon. But I'm not sure the Tar Heels are ready for a team that's going to come at them with the energy and force that Oregon has brought. This bunch can be downright intimidating with its style of play.

My only question about the Ducks all season was whether they would shoot the ball well enough to win more than a couple of consecutive tourney games. But Tyler Dorsey has emerged as the reliable shooter this team has needed and Jordan Bell has become the inside defensive force to replace the injured Chris Boucher.

And these guys are fearless and relentless. That they can be that way and Altman can still retain a measure of control is amazing. The college basketball world is full of control freaks who want to stand on the sidelines screaming at their players, calling every play and controlling every facet of their team's game. And they end up stifling their team's creativity. Altman has let go just enough to allow his team to make the most of its natural ability.

And that's the very essence of coaching.

A FEW FINAL FOUR NOTES: They keep saying this thing is being held in Phoenix but it isn't. The Final Four is actually going to be played in a stadium in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix that is a long way from a lot of places you may choose to stay in the Phoenix area. Be prepared for a long drive from downtown Phoenix, or points south or east. If you're staying in Scottsdale or Mesa or Gilbert or Tempe, it's a long haul. ... And yes, I said the Final Four is to be played in a "stadium" and not an "arena." This thing is going down in University of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the NFL Cardinals and various college football playoff games. It's the one that looks like a giant flying saucer and seats about 67,000 for football. I'm not sure what it will seat for hoops but you can bet there are thousands upon thousands of lousy seats where the scoreboard video screen will be your best view. That also means there should be plenty of tickets available, either through the NCAA, the schools or the secondary market. I'd be careful about paying a high price to a scalper early this week because the market could be flooded with tickets later on. And, as always at a Final Four, Sunday is a good day to buy a ticket on the secondary market for the championship game. The fans of the teams that lose Saturday are always looking to unload their tickets and go home.

Oregon fulfills Final Four dreams through steely resolve

Oregon fulfills Final Four dreams through steely resolve

KANSAS CITY - The sting of losing to Oklahoma in last year's West Regional finals lingered for Oregon Saturday night against Kansas in the Midwest Regional finals at the Sprint Center. The pain served as reminder to these Ducks. Motivated them. Made them stronger.  Convinced them they had to do whatever was necessary to avoid such devastation from happening again. 

So despite not having a key cog in senior forward Chris Boucher (knee), despite being an underdog to a No. 1 Kansas team with arguably more raw talent accustomed to destroying opponents, and despite facing the Jayhawks in an arena just 45 minutes from Kansas' campus and filled with fans wearing blue and red, the Oregon Ducks rose to the challenge and did the improbable, winning 74-60 to earn the program's first trip to the Final Four since 1939.

"Best moment ever," UO forward Jordan Bell said. "Only thing that could top this is winning the national championship."

Saturday was, without a doubt, a monumental night not only for UO's basketball program but also for the athletic department as a whole. Oregon has tasted great success in many different sports during the past two decades, but always seemed to be one step behind the major powers when it came to men's basketball.

Three times in the last 15 years (2002, 2007 and 2016) the Ducks had failed to cash in on Elite Eight appearances, including last season when the UO lost 80-68 to Oklahoma in Anaheim, Calif. Oklahoma's veteran team played with far more confidence and continuity than Oregon that night. The Ducks knew it.

"That feeling in the locker room last year knowing you were so close to the Final Four, where you wanted to get to, we don’t want to feel that again,” UO junior forward Casey Benson said. 

But rather than run from that disappointment, the No. 3 Ducks (33-5) embraced it, redirected it and transformed it into rocket fuel that had them flying high with confidence all night against Kansas, shocking the 18,663 in attendance. 

“That was always in the back of our minds - Oklahoma,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said.

Added Bell": “It helped us out so much."  

UO coach Dana Altman sensed his team's laser-like focus following the Ducks' 69-68 win over Michigan Thursday night in the Sweet 16. It contrasted last year's reaction to defeating famed Duke in the same round. 

 "First of all, we felt so good after beating Duke and we patted ourselves on the backs so much that we didn't have that edge when we played Oklahoma," Altman said.

Altman saw a different demeanor from his team after a narrow victory over the Wolverines.

"I was real happy when I came in [the locker room] after the Michigan game and we weren't celebrating," Altman said. "We were focused on, we got one more game here. So I thought maybe the experience of a year ago maybe helped us."

The Ducks' defense was ferocious on Saturday. Bell had eight blocked shots and altered about a dozen others while the perimeter defenders rarely allowed good looks for Kansas, which shot 20 percent from three-point range, including 1 of 15 in the second half. The Jayhawks shot 35 percent overall. 

On offense, the Ducks faced a tough defense but time after time found a way to stick a huge jumper or get a big offensive rebound which lead to 13 second-chance points. 

Leading the offense's charge was sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, who continued his amazing postseason play with 27 points on 9 of 13 shooting, including 6 of 10 from three-point range. 

But this win wasn't as much about statistics as it was about how much Oregon appeared to be in command of its nerves, emotions and focus in such a hostile environment swirling with intense pressure. 

The Ducks simply didn't care what the fans did, or what Kansas tried to do. And early on, they knew they could shock the college basketball world against a team that dismantled its first three NCAA Tournament opponents by a combined count of 288 to 198.

“When we were hitting shots and we were playing defense and not letting them score, we knew that it was possible,” Brooks said.

Each positive moment raised the team's confidence and put the Kansas fans into shock mode. They cheered with every sign of life from the Jayhawks only to be settled down with each Oregon response. 

“As a road team, essentially, that was big," said Benson, who scored on an amazing finger roll play in the first half. "Obviously we didn’t want to let the crowd get into it.”

Helping to propel Oregon were public slights here and there. 

“Guys over at CBS were saying that we’re nothing and we have no defense without Chris Boucher and we disproved that today by locking in on one of the best offensive teams in the country,” Brooks said.

This quest began immediately after last season when Bell met with Altman. 

“I made a promise to coach Altman that I was going to get him to the Final Four before I left, so I had to just play my butt off,” Bell said. 

His belief came from the emotions the team displayed after last season. 

“I saw the players we had and the determination we had and I saw the hurt form losing last year,” Bell said.  “I knew we had it.”

Brooks made the same promise to Altman.  

“We wanted to win the Pac-12 and we did, then we wanted more,” Brooks said. “We got hungry. We got a little greedy.”

They got a little edgy. 

No maybe about it. That experience last season brought the team together and it showed on Saturday. 

“Playing for one another and playing for coach we’re going to Final Four… ” Benson said. “Coming in we were a confident bunch and we all really like each other.”

Tyler Dorsey "shushes" pro-Kansas crowd, deliveres another great showing

Tyler Dorsey "shushes" pro-Kansas crowd, deliveres another great showing

KANSAS CITY - Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey has moved beyond simply being hot this postseason and has landed in some other state of lucid being that many athletes never experience. 

Dorsey scored 27 points Saturday night during the Ducks' 74-60 win over Kansas in the Midwest Regional finals while making 9 of 13 shots, including 6 of 10 from three-point range. Two of his 3-point shots at the Sprint Center won't soon be forgotten by Kansas' players or fans. 

The latter came shortly after Kansas had decreased its deficit to 66-60 with just over two minutes remaining. The Jayhawks' defense cranked up the heat and forced Dorsey to throw up a desperation shot as the shot clock moved to zero.

Somehow, No. 1 Kansas (31-5) failed to get the defensive rebound and UO forward Jordan Bell ended up with the ball.

"We was running a play that was supposed to go down the gut to Jordan and I wasn't playing attention to the shot clock," Dorsey said. "So, it was my fault and when I was looking at it and I just threw up a desperation shot and I guess they didn't box out and Jordan got a big rebound."

Eventually it made its way back into the hands of Dorsey, who stuck a three to give the No. 3 Ducks (33-5) a 69-60 lead with 1:49 remaining. 

"We caught a break there and Jordan got the rebound and we got to set up another play and TD hit a clutch shot to put us up 9," UO forward Dillon Brooks said. 

That was just about that for the Jayhawks and Dorsey knew it. As he ran back down the court, Dorsey put one finger to his lips as if to tell the mostly ultra pro-Kansas crowd of 18,643 that had been so loud during that possession to "shush." 

“I sent messages throughout the game," Dorsey said. 'That was a big shot and I always have something to do after I make a big shot.”

Dorsey has made big shot after big shot in this tournament after lighting up the Pac-12 Tournament. In seven games he is averaging 23.5 points on Dorsey during the postseason is averaging 23 points per game and is shooting 62.3 percent shooting, including 57.8 percent from three-point range. 

But Saturday's was his best performance of the postseason. 

While Bell destroyed the Kansas offense with 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots, Dorsey did most of the major damage at the other end. The Jayhawks had no answer for him. 

"Tyler, I mean, his -- the way he stepped up in the tournament was unbelievable," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He is playing with tremendous confidence, not only making plays for himself but his teammates and defensively he was solid."

No moment displayed how hot Dorsey is than at the end of the first half.

First he nailed a three-pointer that bounced high off the rim, then off the backboard and down into the basket. On the Ducks' next possession, Dorsey ran down the game clock then launched a deep three that went off the backboard and in at the halftime buzzer to give the Ducks a 44-33 lead. 

When you're hot you're hot. 

Kansas coach Bill Self said that sequence truly hurt Kansas.

"We're down five and hadn't played very well in the first half with a minute 50 left and they bang in those two -- well, they banged in the two threes in the last 45 seconds that made a close game, an 11-point game and certainly put a lot of game pressure on us," he said. 

As for Dorsey's clutch three near the end of the game, Self said it was another example of the Ducks making shots despite good Kansas defense. 

"The other thing they did a great job of was how many times did they make shots at the end of the clock that were pretty well defended," Self said. 

Most of that came from Dorsey, who this month has gone from inconsistent mystery to Oregon legend. 

Jordan Bell intimidates Kansas, sets tone for Ducks in 74-60 win

Jordan Bell intimidates Kansas, sets tone for Ducks in 74-60 win

KANSAS CITY - Oregon junior forward Jordan Bell wasn't impressed with Kansas center Landen Lucas. Bell didn't fear future NBA first-round draft pick, Josh Jackson. Bell certainly had few concerns about Jayhawks' stalwarts, Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham. 

But they all certainly had Bell on their minds during the Ducks' 74-60 win over Kansas in the Midwest Regional finals of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at the Sprint Center. 

Bell, Oregon's lone impact big man with senior Chris Boucher (knee) out, completely disrupted, discombobulated and destroyed Kansas' offense and interior defense with 11 points, 13 rebounds (seven offensive, helping UO get 13 second-chance points) and a whopping eight blocked shots. Oh, and Bell added four assists (there were also four turnovers, but we don't need to get into that) just for good measure.

Still, the MVP of the Midwest Region didn't appear to be completely satisfied with his play during an upset win that sent the Ducks to the Final Four. 

“I think I played alright," Bell said. "I let a couple of layups get in.”

Nobody is perfect. Kansas (31-5) will only remember all the shots they missed while shooting 35 percent on the night and 28.1 percent in the second half. 

The Ducks (33-5) played great team defense, but the undeniable factor was Bell, who from the outset made it know that anyone who ventured into the paint with the basketball ran the high risk of having their shot sent back with a vengeance. Bell intimated Kansas so much that it became clear they were looking for him at all times, even when Jayhawks got inside for good looks. 

“From the get-go he was altering shots, blocking shots, just flying around," UO junior guard Casey Benson said. "He brought so much energy tonight...I’ve seen Jordan play some good games but that might be the best I’ve ever seen him play, to be honest with you."

Bell said he didn't believe he changed Kansas' game plan, and he is correct.

“They kept going," he pointed out. "They’re great offensive players over there. I don’t really think I changed their mind (about going inside). I mean, they kept going and I had eight blocks.”

On the other hand, Bell certainly altered Kansas' confidence inside. 

"He controlled and anchored their defense very well, and I certainly understand why he was (defensive) player of the year in the Pac-12," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But even with that being said, there were numerous times where I thought especially when we got to the bonus relatively early in the second half that we could have done a better job of trying to draw fouls driving the ball as opposed to shooting so many semi or guarded threes that we came up empty on.

Maybe so, but few shots were falling from anywhere for Kansas, which made just five of 25 three-point attempts. What killed the Jayhawks were the many short shots and potential layups that Bell either rejected or altered just enough to make them bounce off the rim. 

Remember, this Kansas team averaged 83.2 points per game on the season and entered the night having outscored its first three tournament opponents, 288 to 198. 

"That may have been his best performance in his three years," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He was phenomenal today. He set the tone early. I thought that was really important. I said in the locker room that he played like we had Chris and him out there. He dominated inside."

Although Bell remembered the imperfections in his game, he also saw the good. 

“I think this is the best I’ve ever played in college basketball," Bell said. "I shine in big moments like this.”

He simply believes, frighteningly so, that he could play even better. 

Oregon swats away No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, advances to Final Four

Oregon swats away No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, advances to Final Four

Oregon 74, Kansas 60 

How Oregon won: No. 3 Oregon (33-5) shot the lights out all night and played spirited and aggressive defense against No. 1 Kansas (31-5) to stun the mostly pro-Jayhwks crowd of 18,643 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and win 74-60 to advance to the Final Four in Phoenix, Ariz.

Oregon got off to a fantastic start shooting 60 percent in the first half including 7 of 12 from three-point range. That led to a 44-33 lead at the break. The Ducks closed the half with two three-point baskets from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. One bounced off the rim, went straight up then back down and in. The other came from straight away deep and went off the backboard at the buzzer. 

Dorsey had 14 in the first half, senior guard Dylan Ennis had 10 and junior forward Dillon Brooks scored 9. Maybe the best performance of the half came from junior forward Jordan Bell, who had four points, eight rebounds and blocked four shots that set the tone on defense. 

Kansas shot 42.9 percent in the first half and were hurt considerably by the foul trouble that Josh Jackson found himself in early on. It disrupted his flow and he finished with zero points after shooting just one shot. Frank Mason III carried the Jayhawks in the first half with 17. 

The great play on offense by UO fell off a bit in the second half but the Ducks' defense did not. Bell put fear into the hearts of every Kansas player that entred the paint with eight blocked shots that ultimately led to countless other altered shots for the Jayhawks. 

On offense, whenever Kansas even remotely looked like it could get back into the game, someone on Oregon made a big play to push the Jayhawks back. 

What it means: Oregon advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1939 when the Ducks last won a national title. 

Key sequence: Kansas got the deficit down to 61-51 in the second half and turned up the heat on defense. After moving the ball around a bit, it ended up in the hands of Dorsey, who starred down his defender and nailed a three-pointer to make the score 64-51, UO. As Dorsey ran back on defense he put one finger to his lips to tell the pro-Kansas crowd to "shush." 

Kansas cut its deficit down to 64-55 but then Ennis scored on a layup to give UO a 66-55 lead. 

Kansas later got a three from forward Svi Mykhailiuk to make it 66-60, UO with 2:49 remaining. Then KU seemingly had a defensive stop working when the shot clock ran down on UO forcing Dorsey to throw up a desperation shot. Kansas, however, failed to get the rebound and the ball landed in Bell's hands. Seconds later, Dorsey cranked up a three to go up 69-60 with 1:41 remaining. 

That was pretty much that. 

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey ended with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting and had five rebounds. Bell gave the Ducks 11 points and 13 rebounds to go along with his eight blocked shots. 

Brooks scored 17 while making 7 of 18 shots. 

Up next:  Oregon will take on the winner of Sunday's South Region finals game between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky in next Saturday's Final Four. 

Kansas' Landen Lucas faces father Richard Lucas' former team in Elite Eight

Kansas' Landen Lucas faces father Richard Lucas' former team in Elite Eight

KANSAS CITY - It finally happened during Landen Lucas' freshman year in high school. 

He took his dad in a game of one-on-one, 21-14. Took him to school by using all of the tricks of the trade his father Richard Lucas, a former star at Oregon from 1987 through 1991, has passed on to him. 

"It was a dark day," the 6-foot-6 Richard Lucas said outside of the Westin Hotel where he was staying in Kansas City. 

Landen remembers it differently. It's more of a fond memory for him, especially given that his dad never took it easy on him even as a young child.

"I wanted him to earn it," Richard said. 

Landen earned it and then some. 

"A couple of years after that, we played again - I was out of shape, that's my excuse - but I couldn't even get a shot off," Richard Lucas, 47, said. "He was so much more athletic and long and stronger."

The 6-10 Landen, who averages 7.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 64 percent, has dominated the former Duck center ever since. On Saturday in the Elite Eight, he will try to do the same against the current Ducks in a game that will tug at the heart strings for both. 

Both Landen and his father, of course, absolutely want No. 1 Kansas (31-4) to be victorious. But that doesn't mean there won't be some strong emotions pulling them the other way, as well.

"It's a very weird thing for me," Landen said Friday at the Sprint Center. "Especially because just growing up, I always watched Oregon. Loved Oregon because of my parents and what dad was able to do there...It's a connection that was cool and all, but the second I came to Kansas it was all about Kansas, and now them being the opponent, I'm just excited about it and excited to go out and play."

--- Growing up a duckling

Landen's childhood was painted green and yellow from an early age. His father's love for Oregon permeated throughout the house, shaping his son's admiration for the Ducks. 

"Growing up I just wanted to be like him," Landen Lucas said. "I would always watch the tapes that he had...He has his highlight tape he will show me every now and then when he wants to brag a little bit. But it is fun to watch him and see what he did in college."

Richard Lucas, who appears as a panelist on CSN's Talkin' Ducks, did the dirty work for the Ducks. Rebounding. Blocking shots. Hustle plays.

"I realized very quickly that if I rebounded the basketball the coaches had a tough time not playing me," Lucas said. "Then the points came."

He passed on that work ethic to Landen. When Landen played youth games as young as age 7, his father would be there barking at him to box out and rebound.

Landen listened.

"He was able to do that for his team, and told me that if I'm able to do that at the highest level I can help any team out," Landen said. "And having a great team like we have we do with great players, I just need to do my job, the small things and that's enough for us to win."

--- Setting his own path

Lucas had an interesting high school career, starting out at Sunset for two seasons before transferring to famed Findley Prep in Henderson, Nev., (essentially a basketball factory) only to return to the Beaverton area to play at Westview, a rival of Sunset's. 

That move brought out the haters from Sunset, but that didn't impact Lucas, who had his sights set on going big time. 

Landen Lucas might have followed in his father's footsteps had the Ducks in 2012 been as good as they are now. But back then, Landen viewed Oregon under coach Dana Altman as a fledgling program that relied too heavily on transfers.  

"I wasn't sure what direction it was heading," Landen said before pointing out that UO appears to be a lot different now, a testament, he stated, to Altman's vision.

Richard Lucas hoped his son would end up at Oregon but ultimately determined that the Ducks' style of play didn't involve tossing the ball into the big man often enough to make it the right fit for Landen.

"We realized pretty quickly that the style of play at the time they were doing was a little bit different than what we were looking for," Richard Lucas said. 

Landen's career at Kansas got off to a rocky start. He redshirted as a freshman and barely played the following season.

Richard Lucas recalled when Kansas coach Bill Self told him he wanted to trade Landen as an 18-year-old for Landen as a 23-year-old fifth-year senior who was going to play a lot.

"It was hard to talk to Landen about that because kids want to play," Richard Lucas said.

Landen resisted at first but soon recognized the value in redshirting especially when he likely wouldn't have played anyway, and he could focus on developing his game and getting off to a good start academically.

Altman remembers recruiting Lucas and hoping he would indeed want to go where his father had starred. Even though that didn't work out, Altman said he's happy for Lucas and how he has developed his game since redshirting. 

"It also shows his perseverance, you know, it didn't start out well for him, the redshirt and he didn't get to play much the first couple of years," Altman said. "But he stayed with it and, you know, it speaks to his character."

Altman pointed out that a lot of young players look to transfer when they don't become instant starts, let alone are asked to redshirt.  

"We're really happy for him, great guy, great family," Altman said. "His dad is a great guy. Really happy for him. I hope he doesn't play well tomorrow, but he's had a heck of a career."

Self said he recruited Landen with the idea of him being a good “program guy.” Instead, he got much more.

“All he did was come in and start for three years, basically, and has become probably as an important part of our program as anybody we've had,” Self said. “You hate to look at a team over the last three years and say, why would you be without him and the answer would be not very good.”

Before each game Richard will give Landed a pep talk and notes on what to watch for based on having watched the opponent. After games they would debrief to go over what happens.

"He is so smart that that's less and less," Richard Lucas said. "He knows what he did wrong and what he can do better."

Landen said he takes his father’s advice to heart.

"I try to take his advice and listen to him, good or bad because I know that he knows what he is talking about," Landen said.

Clearly Richard Lucas’ schooling of his son paid off.

“He's been a real pleasure to coach, and he's very, very bright.” Self said. “He gets it. He gets the big picture. Certainly he has grown so much since he's been here.”

--- The chase for 18 rebounds and beyond.

Richard’s career-high 18 rebounds against Stanford in 1991 remains a point of contention between father and son. He elder Lucas has held that number over Landen his entire college career, challenging him to tie or beat it.

Landen did just that. Sort of. 

Landen Lucas, who had 12 rebounds once as a redshirt sophomore, 16 in a game as a redshirt junior and 17 earlier this season, finally grabbed 18 on Feb. 24 during a 92-89 win over Iowa State.

However, that win came in overtime. The key word being "overtime."

"Doesn't count, sorry!" Richard Lucas said. "Sorry. I mean, come on."

The elder Lucas points out that Landen got three of his 18 rebounds in overtime. So, according to dad, he still holds the family record. 

When asked about it, Landen just shook his head. 

"He's not counting that," he said with a laugh. "I've got to get to at least 18 or more so I can shut him up so he won't talk about it anymore."

When told of that declaration, Richard just laughed.

"You know what, he's been trying for years," he said. "He's. Been. Trying. For. Years. To do that. So, we'll see."

--- Beating Oregon.

The goal is to win on Saturday. Elation would follow. A twinge of pain for both Lucas men would still exist.

“Landen and I talked briefly last night about the situation,” Self said. “He's a big fan of the Ducks not only because he grew up in Portland but because his father played there and was a good player there. So there's pride there about that with his family.”

But that pride factor has shifted. Dad will be wearing Kansas gear. But he admits that he won’t be able to view Oregon as a faceless opponent. Meanwhile, Landen has no choice.

“He told me last night, he said, ‘Coach, I've seen 'em play at least 15 times this year,’” Self said.  “Which he wouldn't be watching any other teams from the Pac-12 play that amount of time unless there was a vested interest with his father. We'll talk about it. We'll talk about it, but he has a lot of respect for back home.”

He has more respect for his goals. The team’s goals. What is at stake. Oregon will have other chances to reach the Final Four. This is Landen’s final shot. And the Ducks, albeit a program he and his father love, stands in the way.

"This is what I stuck it out for,” he said, “and really what motived me earlier in my career."

Oregon was rooting for Michigan, "until now"

Oregon was rooting for Michigan, "until now"

KANSAS CITY - Oregon players couldn't help but become Michigan fans after the Wolverines were involved in a minor plane crash three weeks ago that shook up the players but also has partially propelled them into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. 

"We've all been cheering them on," UO junior forward Jordan Bell said today during media availability at the Sprint Center. "We understand that going through a thing like that can really bring a lot of heart and passion out of people, so we've just been rooting for them."

Bell also added an "up until now," while talking about No. 7 Michigan, which is undefeated since the plane incident and now finds itself up against No. 3 Oregon (31-5) at 4:09 p.m. on Thursday. 

The story of the NCAA Tournament thus far revolves around Michigan (26-11) and its harrowing experience while on a plane taking the team to the Big Ten tournament in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 8.  Facing high winds while attempting to take off from Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., the pilots aborted takeoff but ended up skidding off of the runway and crashing into a field. Nobody was injured but the event left the team a bit shaken up, according to reports.

Michigan went on to win the Big Ten Tournament and upset No. 2 Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to earn a trip to the Midwest Regional semifinals. Because of its story, some have dubbed Michigan as a "team of destiny."

"I think definitely an experience like that would bring you that much closer together, realizing what is important in the grand scheme of things," Oregon junior guard Casey Benson said. "Definitely they have carried that since that happened into the postseason. They're playing at a high level with a lot of confidence, so we've got to match the intensity."

The Michigan admiration, however, only goes so far. UO junior forward Dillon Brooks said the Wolverines' story wouldn't impact Thursday's game. 

"It's a great story and it's a great thing for that program," he said. "We all hear about it but it's just another team in front of us...I see a team in front of me. I know these guys see the same thing. They don't see no destiny. They don't see the crazy thing that happened to them. We just go out there and play our game and play hard. Those guys are talented guys and they play well together. They're playing well for each other and we have to crush that and not give them easy baskets."

The Wolverines were actually on a roll before the plane incident and have now won 12 of their last 14 games. They are led by senior guards Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin who attack the basket, shoot well from outside and don't turn over the ball very often. In fact, the Wolverines average just 9.2 turnovers per game. Oregon likes to be disruptive on defense in order to create bad shots and turnovers that lead to fast breaks. Accomplishing that through forced turnovers won't be easy against Michigan.  

"Being active on defense is going to be key for us," UO sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey said. "We must have active hands. That's going to be key for us in getting deflections and getting steals. Speeding them up and getting them out of their tempo and what they want to run."

Where Oregon could have a huge advantage is in the rebounding department. Michigan averages just 29.2 rebounds per game compared to 36.5 for Oregon.  Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner (6-foot-11) lit up Louisville for 26 points in the last round, but he gave the Wolverines just three rebounds. Wagner averages just 4.1 per game. The 6-10 D.J. Wilson leads the team at 5.3. 

For these reasons, Brooks said that the Ducks could cause more of a matchup problem for Michigan inside than vice versa despite UO not having senior forward Chris Boucher (knee injury) and his 6.1 rebounds per game. Bell averages 8.3 and 6-10 junior Kavell Bigby-Williams can crash the boards when he isn't in foul trouble. 

"Nobody in the Big Ten has a team like ours," Brooks said. "We're versatile, unselfish, a team that loves each other and plays for each other and I feel like we're going to give them a lot of fits...They've got a little size but I feel like me, Jordan and Kavell will hold our own. They've got to guard us. They've probably never guarded no one like Jordan, or like me, or like Velley."

Both teams are playing well. Both teams have earned the right to be here. Which team advances will come down to which team seizes the moment. 

"They got hot at the right time and their playing with a lot of confidence, and we've got to match that confidence," Dorsey said. 

Most of the country will probably be rooting for Michigan, given its backstory that Benson and Bell said caused them to root for the Wolverines. UO coach Dana Altman, however, said he hasn't had time to pull for anyone other than his own team. 

"I do think it's a great story though and how coach (John) Beilein says they have bonded and it's made them much closer," Altman said. "That is a unique story."

It's one that only can continue at Oregon's expense. 

Oregon could be in trouble against hot Michigan

Oregon could be in trouble against hot Michigan

Oregon's narrow 75-72 win over Rhode Island in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday certainly provided plenty of thrills and chills. 

That Tyler Dorsey sure is a clutch shooter. 

The win also provided something else. An "uo oh," or two, for anyone not caught up in the euphoria of watching the Ducks barely slip past a team from the Atlantic 10 Conference.  On the other side of the Midwest Region bracket, the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines were taking care of No. 2 Louisville a week after winning the Big Ten Tournament championship. Michigan has now won 12 of 14 games to overcome a 14-9 start to the season.

Oregon faces Michigan on Thursday. 

"They've got a lot of guys that can shoot the three," Altman said Tuesday in Eugene. "They've got a lot of guys that can put the ball on the floor. They will be a lot to handle, defensively... We know we're going to have to be at our best defensively to try and slow them down a little bit."

Altman said he watched Michigan play on video earlier this season while scouting UCLA. The Bruins dominated the Wolverines, 102-84 on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles, Calif.  Back then, Michigan was struggling to find its footing. The Wolverines followed the loss to UCLA by winning three straight against the likes of Central Arkansas, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Furman. Then Big Ten conference play began and Michigan lost six of its next 10 games. 

Since then, however, the Wolverines have been a different team. Consider that on Jan. 29, Michigan lost 70-62 at Michigan State near the end of the 10-game stretch to start conference play. On Feb. 7, the Wolverines destroyed the Spartans, 86-57 at home to start Michigan's current stretch of winning 12 out of its last 14. 

"They're running their stuff really good, now," Altman said. 

The key catalyst for Michigan has been senior guard, Derrick Watson Jr., averaging 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He will lead an offense that is sure to challenge the Ducks inside, where they have become vulnerable without 6-foot-10 senior forward Chris Boucher, out for the season with a knee injury. 

"It's going to be a tough game," Altman said. "It's a tough matchup for us. We haven't been as good in the paint. People know that. We've been exposed there a little bit without Chris. Our number of blocked shots, our change shots are way down. So, people are going to attack us."

The Ducks and Wolverines hold media availability today. 

A quick look at the game:

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan

Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. 

When: 4:09 p.m., Thursday.

TV: CBS

Records: Ducks (31-5), Wolverines (26-11).

Last outings: Oregon escaped the second round with a 73-72 win over No. 11 Rhode Island. Michigan pulled off a massive tournament upset with a 73-69 win over No. 2 Louisville (25-9).

Coaches: UO's Dana Altman (185-69 at Oregon, 594-312 Division I). Michigan's John Beilein (215-134 at Michigan at Rhode Island, 691-409 overall)

Key Ducks: Dillon Brooks, F, Jr. (16.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 40.9 3pt%); Jordan Bell, F, Jr. (10.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 74 blocks);  Tyler Dorsey, G, Soph. (14 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 40.2 3pt%), Dylan Ennis, G, Sr., (10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg).

Key Wolverines: Derrick Walton Jr., G, Sr. (15.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.9 apg.); Zak Irvin, G, Sr. (12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.0 apg.); Moritz Wagner, F, So., (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), D.J. Wilson, F, Jr., (11.0 ppg., 5.3 rpg).

Notes: The Ducks are 0-4 all-time against UM, ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll.... Michigan won the only postseason meeting between these two teams, 78-53 during the 2004 NIT...The Wolverines won the last meeting, 70-63 on Nov. 24, 2014...