Oregon Ducks' Blueprint to Have a Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament
In just four seasons, Dana Altman has done a fantastic job of re-establishing Oregon Ducks basketball.
He led the program to a CBI championship in 2011 and the NIT Quarterfinals in 2012.
A year ago, Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament, and then, as a 12-seed, advanced to the 2013 NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.
The Ducks' have had a rollercoaster 2013-14 season.
After winning their first 13 games and being ranked No. 10 in the nation, Altman's squad dropped eight of its next 10 contests.
And then, when it looked like everything was unraveling, the Ducks won their last seven regular-season games and their opening round matchup with Oregon State before losing to eventual Pac-12 champs UCLA in the conference tournament semi's.
As it enters 2014 March Madness as a No. 7 seed, Oregon looks to make another deep run in this year's tournament.
Here are some key elements that could help Oregon make another deep run in the 2014 March Madness.
Force Teams to Play Faster Tempo Than They Prefer
Oregon likes to get up and down the floor as much as just about any team in the country.
The Ducks are the No. 8 scoring team in the nation (81.8 PPG). They are very comfortable playing at a fast rate, putting up nearly 60 shots per game (58.6).
One of the best ways to throw a team off is to get it to play at a different pace than it's used to.
Watch for Altman's army to try to create a track meet and a scoring contest of games, daring teams to try to outscore it.
Work Harder on the Boards
Senior forward Mike Moser is the only Oregon Duck that is over 6'5" to average more than 20 minutes per game.
As a team, Oregon is average at rebounding, pulling down 34.3 RPG.
Because Altman plays lineups with three or even four guards, the Ducks have to work extra hard on the glass just to compete.
Oregon needs Moser to return to being the backboard beast that he was as a sophomore at UNLV, when he averaged 10.5 RPG and grabbed double-figure rebounds in 22 games.
On top of that, Altman needs all hands on deck when it comes to going to the glass if the Ducks are going to keep flying in this year's NCAA tournament.
Keep Their Opponents off the Free Throw Line
Because Oregon committed 21.2 fouls per game this season, it is no surprise that few teams put their opponents on the free throw line more than the Ducks.
This season, their opponents shot 26.8 FTPG, which is No. 319 in the nation. To compare, Wisconsin's opponents only shot 14.7 freebies per game (No. 1 in the nation per TeamRankings.com).
Fortunately for Altman, he does not have many players that regularly get into foul trouble. Only senior forward Richard Amardi averages three personal fouls or more (3.4 FPG).
It is possible that Oregon will not live to regret putting March Madness teams on the line. However, if it does not reduce the number of fouls it commits, the Ducks could end up going back to Eugene because of some late-game free throws.
Step Down Even Harder on the Second Half Accelerator
Oregon is the No. 2 team in the nation in second-half scoring.
Rather than letting up or trying to be more balanced, they need to step down even harder on the accelerator after halftime.
Before their opponents get back into the flow of the game after intermission, the Ducks need to get on a roll early and not let up.
Senior guard Johnathan Loyd is a great trigger man to get things moving and keep the pressure on.
The selection committee did not do the Ducks any favors.
Even though Oregon was given a No. 7 seed, it opens against a pesky BYU team that has won 10 of its last 12 games.
This could be one of the highest scoring games of the second round with both teams averaging over 80 PPG.
If Oregon wins and moves on, it will most likely face Wisconsin in the round of 32.
This definitely will be a clash of opposites.
As much as the Ducks like to run, the Badgers like to slow it down and slug it out.
Bo Ryan has taken Wisconsin to the Sweet 16 or beyond 5 times, and this year's team is super solid on both ends of the court.
For the Ducks to beat the Badgers would be a monster upset. One of the biggest in the early rounds of this year's NCAA tournament.
Can Oregon do it? It beat Arizona and UCLA, so it has proven that it can match up.
One thing that we can be sure of: Dana Altman will have the Ducks ready to play against everyone they face in March Madness.
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