West Coast bias

Pa­cific Stan­dard Time: Oregon, Gonzaga earn the first two spots in the Fi­nal Four

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - OREGON 74, KANSAS 60 BY CHUCK CULPEPPER

kansas city, mo. — Surely Oregon’s first Fi­nal Four team never could have en­vi­sioned the heap of in­con­ve­niences that threat­ened the sec­ond. That an­cient team won its 1939 re­gional fi­nal on Trea­sure Is­land in the San Fran­cisco Bay; Oregon won its sec­ond on Satur­day evening amid a great wall of Kansan sound only 40 miles from the Kansas cam­pus. Those by­gone Ducks had to win one game to reach the Fi­nal Four near Chicago, while 78 years on, th­ese psy­che­delic Ducks had to win three games, then sub­mit a vir­tu­oso achieve­ment in the Midwest Re­gion fi­nal.

As they head to a far louder Fi­nal Four in Greater Phoenix, the Ducks (33-5) will know their

74-60 win came de­spite the high­est de­gree of dif­fi­culty in the whole first 62 games of the NCAA tour­na­ment. They will know they as­sem­bled one of the bet­ter cases of de­fus­ing in the record books of Madness, treat­ing a home team that had blasted and soared its way here as some sort of equal, and treat­ing that team’s rapt fans to a fa­mil­iar case of queasi­ness. A team that scored 100, 90 and 98 points sud­denly got 60 as Oregon, the No. 3 seed, quelled the pace with­out be­ing plod­ding.

The Ducks will know, fur­ther, that they gifted their 58-year-old coach, Dana Alt­man, in his sev­enth Oregon sea­son and 28th at the helm of a Divi­sion I pro­gram, with his first Fi­nal Four. As they did so, they joined Gonzaga to con­sti­tute the first Pa­cific Time Zone Fi­nal Four en­tries since 2008. Still fur­ther, they will know they did all of this even after the sea­son-end­ing in­jury, only 15 days prior, to se­nior main­stay Chris Boucher.

This last feat, though, proved their steep­est. As they played a Kansas pro­gram that won its 13th straight Big 12 ti­tle and spent chunks of the sea­son at No. 1, they played their own fourth Elite Eight this cen­tury, and their sec­ond straight, and they did so as that rare Elite Eight team that en­tered the arena to su­per­ma­jor­ity boos. Still, they spent the first 25 min­utes ex­pertly craft­ing a 55-37 lead. They kept hold of their oxy­gen when Kansas (31-5) came at them, es­pe­cially at a mo­ment 6:39 from the end, when Oregon’s March mae­stro, Tyler Dorsey, rammed in a long three-point shot as the shot-clock reached: 02. They held on even when they didn’t al­ways hold onto their of­fen­sive plan.

From the get-go, the vis­i­tors at a neu­tral site be­haved as if they ei­ther didn’t no­tice, didn’t care or de­lighted in their rel­a­tive un­pop­u­lar­ity. They showed their in­tent within 10 sec­onds. Kansas’ Josh Jack­son roared to­ward the bas­ket from the right, and Oregon’s Jor­dan Bell swat­ted away his at­tempt, on his way to a near-triple­dou­ble of 11 points, 13 re­bounds and eight blocks. From there on, Kansas se­ri­ally had prob­lems fret­ting about Bell when it drove in­side.

From there through a first-half feast of ac­ro­batic plays, the Ducks en­sured that Kansas fans could hang out with their ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of March gob­lins from this par­tic­u­lar decade. They ran lovely fast breaks. They made hard-to-make shots. They had sound ideas gen­er­ally.

They hit seven three-point shots, and all of the four that came from Dorsey told sto­ries. On his first two, swishes early on, he stopped in his tracks to ad­mire his work as it trav­eled, then make lit­tle ges­tures, in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of the Kansas bench after they went through. On the fi­nal two, non-swishes in the fi­nal minute, he looked as adamant as if dunk­ing.

He pulled up on the left with 43 sec­onds left and a half-court play not yet even be­gun and launched one that rat­tled out, but rat­tled up­ward and rat­tled back down. He pulled up way out front with two sec­onds left and merely banked one in. The two shots chased the score from 38-33 to 44-33, and the Ducks ran off mer­rily with their out­num­bered pocket of fans in a bounc­ing bliss of re­sis­tance.

Some Kansas fans did take on a fa­mil­iar look. Their pro­gram had gone out pre-Fi­nal Four this decade in plenty a sit­u­a­tion that seemed ripe for mirth: as a high seed against North­ern Iowa, against VCU in a re­gional fi­nal, against Stan­ford, against Wi­chita State, against Vil­lanova in an­other re­gional fi­nal, all of it wrapped around one na­tional run­ner-up fin­ish in 2012.

Their 2016-17 team, so beau­ti­fully un­chal­lenged in its first three Midwest Re­gion games — wins by 38, 20, 32 — had suf­fered a com­pli­ca­tion way back in a 17-sec­ond swatch of the third minute. That’s when Jack­son, the fresh­man from Detroit, picked up two fouls on the same pos­ses­sion and went off to sit and watch. While he wound up play­ing only 10 first-half min­utes, na­tional player of the year can­di­date Frank Ma­son III kept sav­ing Kansas with his own show of knowhow.

With his floaters, his one­han­ders, his will and his two three-point shots that wreaked great walls of sound, he scored 17 points as the team, its bench, its coach and its state all seemed to ride his sturdy back. That Oregon made him less ef­fec­tive in the sec­ond half was just one of its un­pop­u­lar feats.

RON­ALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES

Dil­lon Brooks left, and Tyler Dorsey em­brace Oregon’s first trip to the Fi­nal Four since 1939. The pair com­bined for 44 points.

JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES

Jor­dan Bell was a force in­side for Oregon (33-5), con­tribut­ing 11 points, 13 re­bounds and eight blocked shots to dis­rupt Kansas.

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