8. Oregon (25-9, 13-5/Pac-12)–Oregon was a different team in the second half of the season, closing out Pac-12 play with 11 wins in 12 games before falling to conference champ Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament final.
One of the main reasons for the Ducks’ surge was (mighty) Joe Young, who finished tied for 12th in the country in scoring at 20.2 points per game. The senior guard is a capable three-point shooter (35%), and has the quickness and ball-handling ability to go off in games. He’s scored 32 twice, and put up 30 in the Ducks’ win over Colorado on March 12.
Oregon beat a terrific Utah team twice in the final few weeks, including on a game-winning three by Young in the semifinals. This team might be undervalued at No. 8, and could pose a stylistic threat to Wisconsin in the Round of 32. If they’re hot, Oregon is a tough team to beat.
26th Points per game (75.6)
35th Defensive Rebounding (25.8)
–13-3 in final 16 games
9. Oklahoma State (18-13, 8-10/Big 12)–The Cowboys are lucky that the NCAA selection commitee was in love with major conference teams this year, because OK State’s resume is not awesome.
Sure, the ‘Pokes played in the nation’s toughest conference and scored a win over Kansas and a sweep of Baylor. But after losing six of its final seven and its Big 12 tournament opener by fifteen, Oklahoma State probably figured it was headed to the NIT.
Nevertheless, this team does have some talent that could make it a tough out in the NCAAs. 6-7 senior forward Le’Bryan Nash is an NBA prospect who averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season. 5-11 dynamo Phil Forte III is a terrific three-point shooter (39%) and averaged 15.1 points per game. But this squad doesn’t look like it has the necessary depth to make a deep run in the tournament.
22nd Blocks per game (5)
26th Steals per game (7.9)
261st Assists per game (11.5)
PREDICTION: If you’re down on Wisconsin, take the Ducks to shock the Badgers in round two and make a run to the Sweet 16. When they get hot, Oregon is one of the nation’s toughest teams to defend. At the very least, Mighty Joe Young and company should have enough to get past Oklahoma State in round one.