Get ready for an up-and-down, NCAA tournament runaway grass fire decided by the battle of the wings.
Unlike the first-round matchup against the undersized Holy Cross, No. 1 seed Oregon faces a St. Joseph’s squad on Sunday that has seven players 6-foot-5 or taller who like to push the tempo and attack the rim.
Oregon coach Dana Altman, who also leads a team full of athletic forwards that can also handle the basketball, said the pregame scouting of St. Joseph’s was daunting. The teams tip off Sunday at 6:40 p.m. at Spokane Arena.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup for us,” Altman said. “They’re athletic. They play really hard. I think we are similar basketball teams. (coach) Phil (Martelli) … gets them to play and they’re playing with tremendous confidence. So, we’re going to have to play awfully well.”
Martelli, who hadn’t slept after the last-second 78-76 win over Cincinnati on Friday, said he’s seen Villanova in person and just saw tape of an Oregon team that he honestly had no clue until a few days ago was ranked No. 5 and had won the Pac-12.
“Their size is of grave concern. (Dillon) Brooks and (Elgin) Cook really score the ball. I think they are faster than we are,” Martelli said. “I don’t think either team is a knock ‘em out, 3-point shooting team. They’re a team that you could see in Houston in two weeks.”
Oregon (29-6) advanced to Sunday by crushing Holy Cross 91-52 on Friday. Four Ducks scored in double figures and two more players chipped in nine points apiece.
The No. 8 seed Hawks (28-7) had their hands full with Cincinnati. The game, which had nine ties and 14 lead changes, wasn’t decided until referees disallowed a dunk by Octavius Ellis as time expired to give St. Joseph’s the win.
Martelli said he received texts at about 5 a.m. on Saturday morning from Kentucky coach John Calipari and Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma congratulating him on the win.
“They were both looking … to see if I could give them some ideas on a last-second play,” Martelli said. “Geno needed it because he was up 50 at halftime.”
St. Joseph’s DeAndre’ Bembry, who scored 23 points in the win on Friday, said Oregon is full of versatile players, similar to his own team.
“I just think it’s going to be a really good game,” Bembry said. “Even their centers dribble the ball and shoot threes. So, there’s going to be a lot of shooting, a lot of running and I’m looking forward to it.”
Dwayne Benjamin, a 6-7 senior forward who scored 12 points on Friday for Oregon, said the Ducks’ scout of St. Joseph’s found the same thing.
“They’ve got a couple of guys like me and Elgin (Cook), a couple guys who can do a lot of things,” Benjamin said. “It’s something that we have to worry about … the versatility with those guys.”