SWEET 16 PREVIEW: March 21
Midwest Region: OREGON (2) vs. TEXAS (6) | Friday, 7:55 p.m. ET
This should be a special shootout, baby! These teams can flat-out run and score. If you don't believe me, go ask Arizona coach Lute Olson or Kansas coach Roy Williams. Oregon totaled 195 points in its two wins over Arizona; Texas scored 103 points in an OT thriller against the Jayhawks.
The Longhorns' diaper dandy guard, T.J. Ford, loves the open court and excels in finding the open man. Ford loves to penetrate in the open court and it will be available, because the Ducks won't slow it down. Coach Ernie Kent's Ducks wants to run, run, run!
Oregon has a lethal trio in the two Cool Hand Lukes -- Ridnour and Jackson -- along with Frederick the Great, Mr. Frederick Jones. All three are averaging 20-plus ppg in the tourney.
Oregon has a lethal trio in the two Cool Hand Lukes -- Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson -- along with Frederick the Great, Mr. Frederick Jones.
All three are averaging 20-plus ppg in the first two games of the tournament. We hear about Duke's Big Three (Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy) -- who get a lot of PR and deserve it -- but the fans in Duck Country are excited about their Big Three!
Can they take their performance up to the level they had against Wake Forest, when the threesome combined for 81 of their 92 points? They have to do it to offset Ford and a host of scrappy Longhorns.
Texas reflects the personality of its coach, Rick Barnes. When Chris Owens was lost for the season, the Longhorns didn't quit but responded in a positive fashion in the tough Big 12. You know this squad has been battle-tested all season -- facing the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga, Stanford, Indiana and Utah in non-league games, then league play and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Texas' James Thomas can be a man on the interior. He is one of Texas Tech coach Bob Knight's favorite players in the Big 12 because of his workaholic ways in the low post. And Deginald Erskin has been as hot as anyone in the tournament so far, converting 16-of-21 shots from the floor, a remarkable 76 percent.
The bottom line is, there's some magic in Duck Country this season. I look for the Big Three to lead Kent's team to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1960.