#1 Oregon vs. #4 Duke. In a year dominated by the inconsistent play of everyone, Brandon Ingram has emerged as the likely top pick in this year’s NBA Draft (though I still think Ben Simmons will be the better player). Leading Duke through much of the season amidst losing Senior leader and double-double machine Amile Jefferson, Ingram has developed into a well-rounded player with the motor to get more done than score points and play flashy (Jabari Parker). He’s had some help though.
Grayson Allen is obnoxious. He plays tough but dirty and he just doesn’t have a likable personality. But that’s how most people view Duke players, so it’s not a huge surprise. And he’s really good, so it’s tough to put him down too much for being a dick. There’s not as much depth with this team, but Krzyzewski never went too deep into his bench.
If Duke wants to get things going it will be important the guys like Marshall Plumlee can play like the crazy/weird dude he is and that Matt Jones can step in and play bigger than his 6’5 frame. Chase Jeter is hasn’t been a top-10 player in his first season, but if Duke plays to play big with Oregon they will need Jeter to bring it. Luke Kennard also has that ability and has been great at times this year while moving into the starting lineup. Don’t be surprised to see him go off bigger than Allen. Derryck Thornton will also be important if the Blue Devils get into foul trouble.
The Ducks are the surprise #1 seed of the tournament, but they haven’t really hurt that perception so far. They’ve got some good depth and scoring ability from several different options. Dillon Brooks has been the constant as the team leader and leading scorer. Tyler Dorsey is another one of those guys with the ability to go off at any second. Dorsey has been particularly down in the tournament, but was able to hit a bit shot against St. Joseph’s to seal the deal.
Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are two nice two-way players with the smarts and steadiness to contribute when the best scorers on the team aren’t doing so. Chris Boucher came pretty much out of nowhere to be a great defensive player and shot-blocker for Oregon. He’s not huge (6’10), but the Ducks won’t be winning any games on the inside (which is why Duke really needs to take advantage).
What makes this game interesting is Oregon’s woeful shooting numbers. They aren’t great from distance and while they aren’t big on the frontline, they have nice length on the perimeter. They are a team that can run and get back to play defense so this game should be fun to watch. Duke has no clear lead-guard (unless you think Allen is a point guard) and that might hurt them more than anything. Duke 74, Oregon 73.