When the brackets were released on Monday afternoon, and they did come out lightning fast, the Ducks learned that not only were they placed on the two-line, but on the two-line in the Portland Region. That means that second-seed Ducks (29-4) could conceivably play four games in the state of Oregon prior to earning the school’s first ever Final Four appearance.
The Ducks won the Pac-12 regular season title and reached the Pac-12 Tournament title game this season. They concluded the season ranked seventh nationally, but few teams have a better path to Tampa than the Ducks. Oregon will open with No. 15 Portland State on Friday at Matthew Knight Arena. They’d they plan the winner of Texas versus Indiana on Sunday in Eugene. A second win would set up a Sweet 16 matchup at the Moda Center in Portland.
“I think we earned it,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “I think if you look at our resume with anyone else that they would put in the west, I think it was a no brainer.
“The fact that we’re in Portland is really special. I think any coach would much prefer to close to home at any point in the tournament.”
The Ducks did limp to the finish line — especially by their standards. They won the 24 of their first 25 games before dropping consecutive games to Oregon State and UCLA (both with Ruthy Hebard sidelined with an injury). They then fell to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament final five games later. The Ducks are just 7-3 in their last 10 after winning 17 straight games.
But to Graves, the Ducks have to be measured on the totality of the season, not just a few rough weeks in late February and early March.
“We won the regular season,” Graves said. “I think people forget that. To go 16-2 through a two-month grind [isn’t easy], I always put more premium on that. I know technically you don’t get that automatic bid because of that. To me that means a lot more to me than the tournament championship.”
Even though Graves acknowledged the value of potentially having four games played in the the team’s home state, he was also quick to acknowledge that playing their way to Portland isn’t a guarantee. When asked if the team’s 82-74 win over Mississippi State (the top seed in the region and the possible Elite Eight opponent), Graves said it didn’t “matter”, “I don’t know if we’re going to play them… they’ve got a lot of work to do and so do we.”
“We’re guaranteed one game,” he said. “And that’s Portland State and they’re going to be a really good opponent. I think our fans are excited that we’re here, and good for them.”
The Ducks will host the Vikings on Friday at 6 PM. The game will be carried on ESPN2. A second round game would played on Sunday. No time has been announced for that game.