SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Age is just a number. Or in college sports, it's a designation. Same with a seed in the NCAA tournament. It's just a number. Like age, it doesn't define you. How you act defines you. What a team does on the scoreboard defines it.
Take Oregon guard Damyean Dotson. He's a true freshman. But there's no reason he can't score 40 points in his first two tournament games, including a career-high 23 in a dominant 74-57 "upset" victory over Saint Louis.
And there's Dotson's team, Oregon. You might have heard the selection committee put a "No. 12" by it, and controversy ensued: "Bad seed!" just about every one said.
Yet that number -- 12 -- is now merely a curiosity. The one that now truly matters is 16, as in "Sweet." The Ducks, who improved to 28-8, are headed to Indianapolis to face top-seeded Louisville. If Dotson and his teammates play like they did in HP Pavilion, Rick Pitino and the Cardinals should be nervous.
Dotson entered the NCAA tournament averaging 10.8 points per game, which ranked third on his team. He was named to the Pac-12 all-tournament team as the Ducks rolled to the title, averaging 14.7 points. And he's ramped things up even further in do-or-die tourney situations when he and his teammates have been doing a lot of doing.
Dotson hits the 3s -- he was 5-of-6 from long range against No. 4 seed Saint Louis -- and his teammates play aggressive defense and crash the boards. The Ducks won the rebounding battle 37-23 against the Billikens after winning it 44-30 against Oklahoma State on Thursday. That effort was led by senior Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi, who essentially split 33 rebounds between the two games. Karemi had seven offensive rebounds against Saint Louis, which had three total offensive rebounds.
As for Dotson, Oregon folks don't seem very surprised he's taken a step up during the postseason. While the foot injury to fellow freshman guard Dominic Artis grabbed headlines during the Ducks' late-season swoon, Dotson also got banged up and his play suffered.
He seems pretty healthy now.
"Dot has made great progress all year and I'm telling you, there's so much more there," coach Dana Altman said. "He and [Artis], they've got so much upside, we're fortunate to have some of those guys, because they've got a lot of upside."
The Ducks grabbed control in the first half with a 21-4 run and took a 35-19 lead into the locker room. They never yielded after the break. They built their advantage to 24 with 6:28 left and coasted home.
When Saint Louis briefly looked to be within striking distance -- four times in the second half the Billikens narrowed the margin to 11 -- Dotson ripped a pair of treys. Fair to say they were deflating to the Billikens.
Dotson was the key player for Oregon in the stat of the game: 3-point shooting. The Ducks hit 8-of-11 3-pointers, while the Billikens were 3-for-21 from behind the arc, hitting just one of their first 17. The Ducks shot well overall, while the Billikens didn't. Nuff said.
"I'm just trying to stay aggressive, offense and defense, and just do whatever Coach tells me," Dotson said. "He tells me to shoot the catch-and-shoots, and that's what I've been doing."
Said Saint Louis coach Jim Crews, whose team finished 28-7, the most wins in program history: "[Dotson is] a good athlete -- he's got great touch. We didn't get him off of shot spots like we wanted to. And sometimes it looked like we had pretty good pressure on him. He's long and really has a good lift on it, which is a little unorthodox, but you can't complain with the results if you're an Oregon fan."
Nope. Nor will many Oregon fans continue to fret that ole 12th seed.
The Ducks last reached the Elite Eight in 2007. To get there again, they need to eclipse No. 1.
Hey, it's just a number.