Oregon (29-5), which is seeded third in the Midwest region, is a 15-point favorite against No. 14 Iona (22-12). What does that mean? It means the Ducks should get by the Gaels with minimal resistance in their first-round matchup Friday. The Ducks also likely have enough to get by the winner of No. 6 Creighton (25-9) versus No. 11 Rhode Island (24-9) in a potential Round of 32 matchup.
But after that? Nothing is certain.
“The loss of (Chris) Boucher is going to hurt them down the stretch when they play more quality opponents,” CBS college basketball analyst Len Elmore said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He was such an outstanding shot-blocker and rim-protector.”
Boucher averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game for Oregon. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in a 73-65 win over Cal in the Pac-12 semifinals on March 10. Oregon then lost to Arizona, 83-80, in the Pac-12 Championship, on March 11, this after holding the Wildcats to 58 points in a blowout win Feb. 4.
Translation? Boucher’s absence was evident.
“Now they’ve got some guys that can play some physical basketball in the middle,” Elmore said of the Ducks, “but the seed gets planted in the minds of opponents when you have a guy that blocks almost three shots a game. It really affects their field-goal percentage. It’s not necessary to block, but also the shots that are changed and also the deterrent factor. So they’re really going to have to wonder whether they can extend their defense and play the way they’d like without having Boucher there – and if they can’t, it’s going to cost them.”
Oregon, which had won 27 of their previous 29 games before losing to Arizona, might have to beat No. 2 Louisville (24-8) and No. 1 Kansas (28-4) to get to the Final Four. With Boucher, the Ducks had the defense to do that. Without him, it’s anybody’s guess.
“Dana Altman has always been known for (a physical, aggressive defense), whether it’s at Oregon or at Creighton,” Elmore said. “The guys come out, they will play and extend the defense, they will deny, overplay and try to play a bit physically in the paint. They’ve got some girth. They’ve some athleticism as well. So that system fits them very well.”
Tip-off against Iona is at 2 p.m. ET.