Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Oregon made a historic run to the Final Four last season and now four key catalysts from that team will participate in the 2017 NBA Draft Combine Thursday and Friday in Chicago, Ill.

Forwards Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher, along with guard Tyler Dorsey, were invited to the annual event where NBA executives and scouts will size up the talents of players hoping to get selected in June's NBA Draft.

The 67 invited players will participate in five-on-five games and go through strength and agility drills at Chicago’s Quest Multisport.

For information on the former Ducks' progress, check back to CSNNW.com for coverage from Trail Blazers insider Jason Quick and follow him on Twitter @JWQuick.

The Trail Blazers have three picks in the first round of the draft? Could one be an Oregon Duck?

NBADraft.net projects Bell to be a late first-round pick, and for Boucher and Brooks to go late in the second round. Dorsey is not projected by the website to get selected.

 

Oregon junior Dillon Brooks declares for the NBA draft

Oregon junior Dillon Brooks declares for the NBA draft

Dillon Brooks announced Wednesday that he has hired an agent and plans to enter the NBA Draft.

The junior forward announced the decision on his Instagram with a link to his website:

"I've done so much here and everything has been great. I wouldn't be here right now without coaching staff, believing in me," Brooks said in the video. "I was not highly recruited and they believed in me from the jump. I just feel like now I'm going to take my talents to the next level and enter in the draft.

Brooks was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year after averaging 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists this season.

Not to be overlooked on a stat sheet is his big play ability. The All-American hit game-winning shots against Tennessee, UCLA and Cal this past season.

Brooks led Oregon to the NCAA Tournament in each of his three years, including a history-making Final Four run. He is Oregon's all-time scoring and assists leader in tournament history.

Brooks is projected by most mock drafts to be a second-round pick. This announcement comes two days after Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey also declared for the NBA Draft.

Junior Jordan Bell has not yet announced his future plans.

Brooks, Bell and Dorsey should return to improve and finish this thing off right

Brooks, Bell and Dorsey should return to improve and finish this thing off right

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It might be a pipe dream, but let's at least entertain the possibility that Oregon stars Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey all could return next season.

All three left the door open following the team's 77-76 loss to North Carolina Saturday in the Final Four played at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

"I'm not too sure," Brooks said when asked about his plans. "I'm going to go through the process and take my time with it."

Bell and Dorsey made similar statements. 

If they were to return, the Ducks could very well be voted as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the nation and picked as the favorite to capture the 2018 national championship. 

This season will go down as one of historical significance for a program that hadn't made it that far since winning it all in 1939. That didn't lessen the sour feelings in a dejected locker room following defeat. So why not return to take care of unfinished business?

Money is always an allure, along with the dream of playing in the NBA. All of that would still be there for all these three in 2018 with only the fear of injury serving as a potential deterrent. 

There's something else, also; the possibility that none of the three is truly ready for the NBA, or will have much of a career in the association to begin with. 

Bell has played his way into being projected by some mock drafts as a potential late first-round pick. Brooks is projected by most to join senior Chris Boucher in the second round. Dorsey's hot postseason has landed him on some second-round lists. Each could conceivably improve his stock by returning and increase his chances of going higher in the 2018 draft. 

That all, of course, is easy to write from a laptop. Each has a lot of issues to consider, including what's best for their respective families. But from a pure basketball perspective, there are ample reasons for all three to return, but chances are that just one, maybe two, decide to come back. 

Here's a look at the probability each man returning for another season at Oregon: 

Dillon Brooks, Jr., forward, projected second-round pick: Brooks actually should probably leave. He's accomplished so much already and will go down as one of the program's greats. He improved his outside shooting over last season, and he demonstrate great fire, rim attacking ability and all-around defensive skills. He likely won't be a starter for a good NBA team, but he could contribute as a bench player and have some productive years. Returning to Oregon for the Pac-12 player of the year and second-team All-American, and duplicating that success, could thrust Brooks into the first round nexts year.

What will he do?: 80 percent chance he leaves: Brooks explored the draft last season before wisely returning. He's tasted injury this season (foot) and probably won't want to risk a more serious setback next season. 

Jordan Bell, Jr., forward, projected first or second round: Bell has the best pro potential of the three. He is already an NBA-caliber rebounder and shot blocker. His offense, however, won't cut it at the next level. He did demonstrate dramatic improvement in that area this season. Should he return to add more post moves and demonstrate an ability to stick the short jump shot that many teams give him, Bell could play his way into the lottery. 

What will he do?: 50/50. Bell has improved every season and would take another big step if he were to return. It's difficult enough for big men to adjust to the NBA, let alone one with a very marginal offensive game. Bell should come back next season and raise his 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season to a cool 15 and 10 next season. 

Tyler Dorsey, So., guard, projected second-round pick to undrafted: Dorsey, who explored the draft last season, appeared to be a lock to return after a wildly inconsistent season before he went off during the postseason, raising his stock. He crushed it in the Pac-12 Tournament and during the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 23.5 points per game while hitting on 57.5 percent of his three-point attempts. His showing should be enough to make him a second-round pick. However, there are red flags. First off; he had 14 games during the regular season where he made three or fewer field goals with six games of one or zero shots made. Did his supreme tournament showing erase all of that from the minds of scouts? Probably not. Plus, at 6-4 he struggled mightily against North Carolina's perimeter length. The 6-8 Justin Jackson and the 6-6 Theo Pinson were able to prevent Dorsey from getting his shot, harassing him into a 3-of-11 shooting night. Dorsey did, however, finish with 21 points thanks to his ability to get to the free throw line and make all 12 of his attempts from there.

Dorsey isn't a point guard and might not be athletic or big enough to consistently get his shot in the NBA. He does, however, potentially have a future as a three-point marksman off the bench, but only if he becomes more consistent from long distance. 

He could develop in that area next season. 

What will he do?: 25 percent chance he leaves. Dorsey needs to stay another season to show that he can do over an entire season what he did during the postseason. If Brooks leaves, Dorsey becomes the lead scorer and could raise his average from 14.6 this season to 20, or more. Even if Brooks stays, Dorsey could raise his scoring average to 18 simply by drastically reducing the number of horrid performances he puts forth. 

---

Oregon's lineup next season would be ridiculous if all three returned to play alongside guards, Payton Pritchard, Casey Benson, and a hopefully an improved Kavell Bigby-Williams in the middle. Plus, the Ducks welcome in a strong recruiting class led by five-star, and probably one-and-done guard Troy Brown. 

It would be a roster that could certainly get back to the Final Four and bring back a companion for hte 1939 trophy.

But it probably won't happen.

Or could it?

A dejected Oregon team searches for solace after a great season

A dejected Oregon team searches for solace after a great season

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The hushed whispers that floated throughout a disappointed Oregon locker room spoke louder than the often inaudible words that escaped the lips of several dejected Ducks players.

UO knew they it had allowed a big moment to slip away during a gut-wrenching, yet typically spirited effort that fell short, 77-76 to North Carolina Saturday night in the Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium.  

"It hurts because we were right there," UO guard Tyler Dorsey said. 

Right there to steal what would have been the greatest win in program history and set up an all-Northwest championship game Monday night with No.1 Gonzaga (37-1). 

Instead, the Ducks (33-6), who rallied back from a double-digit deficit to nearly win fell short and had only themselves to blame. 

"We fought so hard," UO coach Dillon Brooks said. "We fought together. We just couldn't pull this game out."

North Carolina (32-7) missed four free throws in the final six seconds and UO failed to secure an offensive rebound and a chance to make a game-winning shot. Taking the loss the hardest was forward Jordan Bell, who shed tears as he blamed himself for not finding a way to wrestle one of those failed rebound attempts away from North Carolina, which ran out the clock after the second critical offensive rebound.

"I should have blocked out better," Bell said. "I've done that a million times."

Bell ran through the scenarios that could have followed had he grabbed a rebound. They included one of the Ducks' scorers winning the game at the buzzer. But nobody on the team blamed Bell, who battled hard inside all night against a much bigger North Carolina team, led by Kennedy Meeks' 25 points and 14 rebounds, the final one icing the game. 

"Meeks bullied us tonight," freshman point guard Payton Pritchard said. 

Guard Casey Benson actually blamed himself.

"Yeah, I mean the first (rebound), it just got tipped out and they got it," he said. "And the second one, they got it again. So I wish I could've dove and gotten it. That was on me."

This was on nobody in particular. The game was filled with a zillion near misses and mistakes by both teams. 

According to Pritchard, the plan, following the final free throws by North Carolina's Joel Berry II, was to pop Dorsey out for a jumper if the Tar Heels guard made the final attempt. If Berry missed, which he did, Pritchard said that whoever got the ball was going to have to go down court and make something happen. Neither chance ever came for UO. 

"This is a tough moment," Brooks said. 

Brooks wasn't there to help Bell on the boards after fouling out with about five minutes remaining. He quietly lamented how much it hurt him to be on the bench rather than helping his team when it needed him the most. 

"I feel like I let my team down," Brooks said. 

UO coach Dana Altman expressed pride in his team. The way they battled. The way they fought. But the team didn't play great basketball as it had during last week's upset over No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight. 

"They're going to look back and it's going to hurt because we didn't play very well at times," Altman said. "And our turnovers (16, 12 in the first half) were bad and we made some really bad decisions and quick 3s."

Despite the loss, this was the greatest season Oregon has had since winning the 1939 national title. The program has been on a steady upward trajectory under Altman the past four years. The Ducks could easily be back here again, and soon. 

"We're definitely on the rise," Brooks said. "It's been a great season. We played really hard, we played for each other. This team will go down as one of the best [Oregon teams] in history."

No doubt. 

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.”

North Carolina has a plan for slowing down Dorsey and Brooks

North Carolina has a plan for slowing down Dorsey and Brooks

GLENDALE, Ariz. - North Carolina has watched the game video. The Tar Heels have poured over the statistics. They know the deal regarding Oregon stars, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Slow them down during Saturday's Final Four matchup, or forget about playing on Monday. 

The how is the problem. The plan: Try to keep the ball out of their hands to begin with. 

“For us, we have to try and make it as hard as possible for him to catch it,” North Carolina junior forward Justin Jackson said. “It’s extremely hard to stop somebody who’s got it going like that when they have the ball.”

If No. 3 Oregon (33-5) is going to upset the No. 1 Tar Heels (31-7) at the University of Phoenix Stadium the Ducks must receive high-end performances from Dorsey, a sophomore, and Brooks, a junior.

"They're so athletic," NC coach Roy Williams said of Oregon. "I try to figure out who the dickens do I have that can guard them. They present a lot of problems."

The two have carried the team offensively. Dorsey, who after an inconsistent regular season that saw him make three or fewer field goals 14 times, including six outings of one or zero field goals made, has been on fire since the Pac-12 Tournament. He's averaging 23.5 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting, including 57.8 percent from three-point range. 

"He's been on a tear, no doubt about it," UO Coach Dana Altman said.

Brooks, the Pac-12 player of the year, is averaging 17.6 points on a modest 40 percent shooting, but he has hit several clutch shots along the way and is the team's best all-around playmaker. 

“It’s going to be tough," North Carolina junior forward Theo Pinson said. "Big-time scorers. They can shoot the ball at a high level. They are one-on-one players, so at the same time, you’ve got to take on that challenge. Get put on an island and see what you can do.”

It might take many Tar Heels on that island to deal with Dorsey, who hasn't met a shot he didn't like in this tournament. 

“A guy that hot, you’ve just got to be there and make it tough for them,” Pinson said.

That comes through pressure and disruption. Don't, Pinson added, let him get into rhythm. 

“At the same time, he’s making shots all type of ways, so it doesn’t even matter,” Pinson said. “You just try to be there as much as you can.”

On the other end, Oregon will have its hands full with Jackson, who at 6-foot-8 is one of the more versatile wings in the country. The first-team All-American is averaging 18.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. 

“Great player," Brooks said. "One of the best players in the country. He’s versatile, he's 6-8, he can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. He has length.”

Jackson and Pinson will look to use that length to disrupt Dorsey and Brooks. How well that works could decide the game. 

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.”

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. 

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior guard Dylan Ennis put his head down in disappointment after missing his second front end of one-and-one free throw attempts in the final two minutes Thursday night, the latter coming with the Ducks leading 69-68 over Michigan at the Sprint Center. 

Ennis felt deflated, knowing that having made the first of his second one-and-one attempt would have given his team a two-point lead with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Making two at the end would have put the No. 3 Ducks up three. 

"I went straight over to him," Oregon junior guard Casey Benson said, describing how he offered Ennis encouragement.

But Ennis, a 74.8 percent free throw shooter, didn't need much of a pep talk. He knew he had to find a way to make amends with Michigan having one final chance at pulling out a victory. 

Ennis, as it turned out, ended up on Michigan senior guard Derrick Walton Jr.   Ennis made it difficult on Walton, a deft penetrator who ultimately settled for a deep jumper that banged off the rim at the buzzer. Ducks win, 69-68 to advance to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. 

"If they hit that shot, it's on you," Ennis said, "and I didn't want to live with that for the rest of my life. So I dug in."

Oregon (32-5) has made digging in a habit this postseason. When this season comes to a close - national champions, or not - these Oregon Ducks should be remembered for their guts, guile and heart. All three have carried them through no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Some have been created by their own doing. Some have come about because of bad luck. Others were the result of strong play from a worthy opponent, such as Michigan.

"The team with the most heart won," UO forward Dillon Brooks said. 

That Oregon, which will face No. 1 Kansas on Saturday, made it this far is not shocking. But that they have twice overcome being eliminated by finding a way win over and over has been impressive. The Ducks, minus star forward Chris Boucher (knee) this postseason, easily could have lost in the second to Rhode Island, but pulled out a 75-72 lead thanks to shutting down the Rams over the final few minutes and getting two huge three-point shots from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. 

Several clutch plays defined Thursday night's win. No. 7 Michigan (26-12) led 68-65 when Ennis missed his first front end of a one-and-one. That could have proven to be devastating. But junior forward Jordan Bell slithered his way underneath Michigan's big men to gather the rebound and put it back in with a reverse layup to make the score 68-67. 

After the game, Ennis joked that he owed Bell dinner for "saving his life." Bell joked that his teammate certainly owed him something. But most of all, several of Oregon's players said that that's just how they do things. As a team. Having one another's backs. Picking one another up. Remaining strong. 

"We were just playing tough," Brooks said. "Teams are going to go up and we're going to go down. But we're not going to get discouraged."

After one of the team's three defensive stops over the final two minutes, Dorsey ended up with the ball and Oregon down 68-67. He fiercely grinded his way to get off a shot. Driving left. Getting stopped. Faking. Spinning. Getting his defender into the air. Then he smoothly floated in a layup for the lead. 

"Do whatever you can to win," Bell said. 

Michigan was labeled as the team of destiny after experiencing a minor plane crash earlier this month prior to the start of the postseason. Maybe now it's Oregon that has some of that destiny stuff working for it right about now. 

"It's just exciting to move on to the next game and have another opportunity to go to the Final Four," Benson said. 

The Ducks were blasted last season by Oklahoma in the Elite Eight during that attempt to reach the Final Four. They weren't quite ready for that level of play. Saturday against Kansas will be very difficult. Its fan base has taken over the Sprint Center and it helped propel the Jayhawks to a 98-66 win over No. 4 Purdue. 

The Ducks will need every bit of their defensive prowess and the tenacity they displayed Thursday night to get through that game. 

"That's what kind of defense we need for 40 minutes," Brooks said. "The offense will come. Tonight it didn't."

Oregon in many ways is inferior to Kansas. Missing Boucher could really finally catch up with the Ducks on Saturday.

"I feel really bad for Chris, just because it's tearing him up," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He wants to be out there so bad, help his teammates.

The Ducks might go down Saturday. But it won't be without a fight. And it won't be because they lacked the heart to stand in there, take big blows and fire back with desire.