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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ducks and Jayhawks to battle for Final Four berth

Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) celebrates following the Ducks' win, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) celebrates following the Ducks' win, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

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— The Big Ten flavor to the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks’ run through the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region ended Thursday night at Sprint Center, thanks to the Pac 12’s Oregon Ducks, who edged Michigan, 69-68, in the Sweet 16.

After toppling the Big Ten’s Michigan State and Purdue to advance to the Elite Eight, KU will have to get past one of the Pac-12’s marquee programs, third-seeded Oregon (32-5), Saturday (7:49 p.m.) in order to return to the Final Four for the first time in five seasons.

Eighth-year Ducks coach Dana Altman, who coached at Kansas State in the Big 8 during the early 90s, didn’t know for sure during his post-game press conference which team he and his squad would encounter in this weekend’s regional final. But he referenced how difficult an environment it could be for his Ducks if the Jayhawks got past “a really big” Purdue team.

“Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said of the Big 12’s 13-time defending conference champion. “Obviously, look out there (in the arena seats) and there is a little green section and a dark blue section and royal blue filled everything else. If it's Kansas, it will be a tough ball game, because it's a road game.”

After his double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) helped Oregon secure its program-record 32nd win, junior forward Jordan Bell made it clear the Ducks knew all about KU’s Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham, even if they had been preoccupied of late preparing for the Wolverines.

“Kansas, their guards are scrappy and shoot well,” Bell said. “They have a candidate for player of the year, so either game it's going to be tough.”

An Oregon victory never seemed certain until the final buzzer sounded. Michigan had a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play before baskets by Bell and Tyler Dorsey (20 points, 7-for-15 shooting) provided the Ducks with the slightest of margins.

The Wolverines’ backcourt stud, senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. (20 points, eight assists), had a clean look at a potential game-winner in the final seconds, but left it short. Neither team led by more than six at any point, and Altman and his players said they were fortunate to survive.

“During the game you don’t really think of that,” Altman said of how tight a game it was. “Then afterwards you think of all the little plays that could’ve happened and it wears on you pretty good.”

The game’s final seconds wore on the players wearing Oregon’s bright neon yellow uniforms.

“I was just watching the ball in the air hoping it didn't go in,” Dorsey said, “and it didn't. I was happy and I was excited for us to get back to this Elite Eight. Just ball-watching, to be honest.”

Now the eyes of both the Ducks and the Jayhawks can turn to a battle for one of four available spots in the national semifinals.

By the Numbers: Kansas 98, Purdue 66

By the Numbers: Kansas 98, Purdue 66

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Purdue


Comments

Mike Kendall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought the crowd was absolutely fantastic tonight. Can you imagine how loud it will be Saturday evening? !!!!!!

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Kansas' advantages:

(1) Talented players catching fire at the right time of year. A lot of people talked like the scUM Skunk Weasels (ERRRRRR) Michigan Wolverines were the hottest team in the Tournament. If they were, Kansas has officially taken its place. The players are all playing at a higher level, and dare I say with more freedom, than they did all year against Big 12 competition.

(2) Playing in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse East, aka the Sprint Center. So many times we've played in this tournament, and the fans cheered against us when we got into a deficit because they smelled an upset. Not so in the Sprint Center. We've got most of the arena on our side as we did in the BOK Center in Tulsa. We can feed off the fans' energy to propel us to victory.

(3) Oregon, frankly, has not been all that impressive in their victories against lower-seeded Rhode Island and Michigan, needing to come from behind in the final minute to avoid the upset each time. Now they're running into a red-hot Kansas team that has treated two Power 5 teams like a UMKC or a McNeese State - you know, the kinds of teams that appear on the December schedule to absorb a whooping.

Kansas' disadvantages

(1) Dana Altman has a history of beating Kansas when he was at Kansas State. His 1992-1993 KSU team upset KU in Kansas City (in old Kemper Arena) in the 1993 Big 8 Tournament semifinals. The following season, his KSU Wildcats waltzed into Allen Fieldhouse and defeated top-ranked Kansas by four points. So he knows how to negate a KU homecourt advantage.

(2) Bill Self has three kryptonites - WVU Coliseum, Gallagher-Iba Arena, and the NCAA Elite Eight. Last year he was 0-3 in those situations. This year he is 1-1, breaking through with a win over OSU in Gallagher. His Elite Eight record at KU is a sub-par 2-4; and if you include his Elite Eight appearances with Tulsa in 2000 and Illinois in 2001, his Elite Eight record is an abysmal 2-6. Only Temple coach John Chaney struggled more in Elite Eight situations, going 0-5. Hopefully Self can overcome the Elite Eight kryptonite this season as he did in 2008 and 2012.

Martin Rosenblum 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Lucas gets to play against Oregon. He might not be able to go back to Portland after that game!

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Definitely not. If we lose, he can never live that down. If we win, he becomes the most hated man in the state of Oregon.

Michael Leiker 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Whatever the outcome hopefully a couple of home-home matchups come out of this one like they did after the '02 game. Be a great road trip!

Joe Ross 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Matt Painter post-game presser: "The Jayhawks are who we THOUGHT they were. And that's why we took the damn court! Now if you wanna crown 'em, then crown their @$$. But they ARE who we THOUGHT they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"

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