Do you think anyone saw the Pac-12 Conference coming? After all, they weren't given much of a chance to stick around this long, not with the lack of respect they have gotten of late.
How many people thought that while both the Big Ten and Big 12 have only a single team left, the Pac-12 would be sitting with four of the five teams they put into this competition?
They've done so well, in fact, that two of their teams are facing each other in the Sweet Sixteen. The Oregon Ducks have a coach who has been here before, as this is Dana Altman's fifth appearance. Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 with little-known Florida Gulf Coast.
Oregon and USC meet at 9:45 PM ET at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with CBS televising.
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NCAA Tournament – Sweet Sixteen @ Indianapolis
OREGON DUCKS vs. USC TROJANS, 9:45 PM ET Sunday (CBS)
NCAA Tournament Odds: USC -1.5 (-115) / Total 138 (Over -105, Under -115)
We're not sure what conclusions to come to from a previous meeting between these teams, but they only played once. That was on February 22, and the Trojans made sure the Ducks never got in the game. At one juncture they were up by 26 points in the second half, and USC cruised home with a 72-58 victory.
Guard Tajh Eaddy was a presence Oregon had extreme difficulty dealing with, as he hit six triples on his way to 24 points. With ten treys and a +13 rebounding margin, USC didn't need the services of Isaiah Mobley, who was out of action.
Usually the elder Mobley is a viable entity on the boards, particularly on the offensive end. In the Round of 32, he stepped out of character and sank four triples against Kansas. We'll say this much – if Isaiah starts doing stuff like that again, there is genuine trouble in store for Oregon, because he's not supposed to be the offensive force.
That role belongs to his brother Evan, a big “get” for Andy Enfield, inasmuch as he was one of the more ballyhooed high school prospects in the country. It was understood that he was going to be a “one-and-done,” but the Trojans have gotten an awful lot of mileage out of him.
Evan, who will be drafted in the top five, has averaged 16.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He is a defensive game-changer on the inside, with the athleticism to challenge all the members of the opposing side. And he is the principal reason why USC is the nation's best when it comes to defending against two-point shots, as they have allowed just 41.4% (and by the way, just 30.4% in this tournament).
One of the good things about Evan Mobley is that even when he isn't having a big game on the offensive end, that doesn't prevent him from being perhaps the most important factor on the floor elsewhere. He's scored just 27 points in two NCAA Tournament games, but he's pulled down eleven boards against Drake and 13 against Kansas, and blocked three shots in each game. You can imagine he has altered many more than that.
Oregon has had to win only one game to get here; they essentially won by forfeit in the scheduled opener against VCU when the Rams came up with some COVID cases. They have balanced scoring, a tournament-savvy coach in Dana Altman and shot 56% against an Iowa team that lacks defense.
USC doesn't lack defense, so don't expect the Ducks to quack their way to 63% shooting from inside the arc. We are willing to move with the Trojans at this short number.
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