Only Oregon remains to represent the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament. The league sent seven schools to the Big Dance and promptly saw five exit in the first round. The Ducks narrowly avoided getting sent home themselves in a 69-64 second round win over St. Joseph's. Oregon needed a game-ending 18-6 run over the final five minutes to beat the Hawks.
The No. 1 seed Ducks’ reward is a shot at the defending national champions. Duke had to hold off a late rally from Yale before beating the Bulldogs 71-64. The Blue Devils have reached the Sweet 16 for the 29th time behind a formidable one-two offensive punch of Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen.
No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (25-10) vs. No. 1 Oregon Ducks (30-6)
When: 10:07 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Honda Center (Anaheim, CA)
Line: Oregon -3
Keys for Duke
Allen must keep rolling
Few players have had a better showing in the NCAA Tournament so far than the Duke point guard. Allen averaged 26 points per game in wins over Yale and UNC Wilmington. He has been effective at attacking teams on the drive and on the perimeter. Allen will have to be able to do both, while limiting turnovers, against Oregon.
Don't get sloppy
Duke had stretches in both of its victories last week where it hit offensive lulls because of poor shooting and multiple turnovers. The Blue Devils can't afford to do either against Oregon. The Ducks have athletic guards who can disrupt passing lanes and score easily in transition. Getting into a track meet with Oregon won't end well.
Keys for Oregon
Crash the boards
When the Ducks do a consistent job of collecting rebounds, good things happen. Oregon is 21-2 this season when it finishes with more rebounds than an opponent. This could be especially critical against Duke. The Blue Devils like to light it up from the perimeter. If Oregon can bottle things up outside and reel in long rebounds, it can help the Ducks get out in transition and bury the Blue Devils early.
Keep Ingram in check
There's a good reason why Ingram is in competition with LSU's Ben Simmons to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He can pick apart defenses with ease. Ingram averaged 22.5 points against Yale and UNC Wilmington. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook or whoever else Oregon coach Dana Altman assigns to guard Ingram will need to blanket the standout freshman. If Ingram gets in a rhythm, the Blue Devils will be tough to stop.
Oregon has been labeled as the weakest No. 1 seed by many national pundits and that scrutiny is even more intense this week after a terrible overall showing by the Pac-12. The ironic part in all of this is that the Ducks have a favorable shot at reaching the Elite Eight going against the Blue Devils. Duke relies on a high-scoring offense to get things done and has a porous defense. That plays right into Oregon's hands.
Prediction: Oregon 82, Duke 75
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.