USC (-2) to Beat Oregon

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The Oregon Ducks face the USC Trojans in the Sweet 16 in the first-ever meeting between PAC-12 teams in the men’s NCAA Tournament. The Ducks advanced in the first round with an uncontested victory as VCU was sidelined with COVID-19, but they bounced back and upset Iowa 95-80 behind 23 points from senior Chris Duarte. The Trojans beat Drake 72-56 in the first round before annihilating Kansas 85-51 in the second round. The Trojans beat the Ducks 72-58 in their only prior meeting this season on February 22nd in Los Angeles.

Ducks Need Duarte and Omoruyi at Their Best

If the Ducks beat the Trojans, they will need to be efficient shooting threes and get a big performance from Eugene Omoruyi. The Ducks showed in their win over Iowa that they can beat anyone in a fast-paced shootout, but they will face a completely different opponent in USC in the Sweet 16 The Trojans are a much better defensive team, and their length will be a challenge. The Ducks played all five of their starters at least 30 minutes in the Iowa game while playing no bench player more than 12 minutes. It will be important that the Ducks defend without fouling as their depth is limited, especially behind Omoruyi. With starting center N’Faly Dante out for the season with a torn ACL, they will collectively need to step up and prevent the Trojans from getting the ball inside as much as possible. Eugene Omoruyi will need a great effort on the glass to prevent the Mobleys from gashing the Ducks with second-chance points.

The Ducks will likely get outscored in the paint and get outrebounded, so it is imperative that they make shots. The Ducks rank 15th in the country as they have made 38.2% of their threes this season. All five of the Ducks’ starters shoot at least 35% from beyond the arc, and they will need to stretch the Mobleys out to the perimeter to open up driving lanes. Per KenPom, the Ducks rank 23rd in the country with a 7.3% steal rate, and they will need to force turnovers to get transition scoring opportunities without the Mobleys in their way. Senior Chris Duarte leads the team as he is shooting 42.8% on threes this season, and he will need to lead the Ducks with a big-time performance if they hope to advance to the Elite Eight.

Trojans Need the Mobleys to Dominate

If the Trojans hope to win and cover slight favorites, they need the Mobley brothers to dominate the smaller Oregon frontcourt while Tahj Eaddy needs to continue making threes at a high level. The Trojans need the Mobley brothers to take advantage of Oregon’s lack of size as the Ducks don’t start a single player taller than six-foot-six. Evan Mobley is seven feet tall while his older brother Isaiah Mobley is six-foot-10, and both players have wingspans over seven feet. The Trojans will need them to continue dominating the glass as the Trojans rank 12th nationally with a 35.4% offensive rebounding rate (per KenPom). The Ducks aren’t a strong rebounding team as they rank outside the top 150 teams in offensive and defensive rebounding rates.The Mobleys dominated Kansas in the previous game as they combined for 27 points, 21 rebounds, nine assists, and four blocks. While Evan Mobley gets most of the headlines, his brother Isaiah hit four of five threes against Kansas and leads the team with a 45.7% three-point shooting percentage (albeit on just 35 three-point attempts this season). The Mobley brothers have been the bedrock of the nation’s top two-point percentage defense as the Trojans have held opponents to shoot just 41.4% inside the three-point arc.

The Trojans will also need their veterans on the perimeter to take advantage of open shots thanks to the gravity of the Mobley brothers. Tajh Eaddy leads the team with 61 made threes this season on 38.6% shooting from beyond the arc. He and Drew Peterson will need to be accurate shooting threes, especially if the Ducks get hot from beyond the arc like they did against Iowa.

Free Pick: USC -2 over Oregon

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