Oregon won the first NCAA Tournament held in 1939. The Ducks have not reached the Final Four since that time. Now they are one step closer to breaking that long drought after an 82-68 victory over Duke, a victory that allowed Oregon to set a school record for most wins (31) in a season.
Getting past Oklahoma will be a much tougher task. The Sooners are looking for their first Final Four berth since 2002 after dispatching Texas A&M 77-63. Oklahoma took down its former Big 12 rivals even as standout Buddy Hield was bottled up defensively for much of the night. Along the way, the Sooners resembled the team that was ranked No. 1 for a large portion of the regular season.
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (28-7) vs. No. 1 Oregon Ducks (31-6)
When: 6:09 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Where: Honda Center (Anaheim, CA)
Keys for Oklahoma
Help out Hield
It's tempting for the Sooners to sit back and let Hield do his thing because he does it so well. Still, when defenses collapse in on the guard, Oklahoma needs other players to pick up the slack. That's one reason why the Sooners beat Texas A&M so easily. Hield wasn't carrying the team all alone. Jordan Woodward led Oklahoma with 22 points – including 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
Control the Glass
Rebounding is an Achilles' heel for Oregon. The Ducks are not a strong rebounding team and struggled against St. Joseph's in the Round of 32 when the Hawks had an edge on the glass. Oklahoma has not won the rebounding battle in any of its NCAA Tournament games thus far. The Sooners can't afford to lose it to the Ducks. Oregon likes to attack the rim and giving the Ducks plenty of second chances will put Oklahoma's defense on its heels for 40 minutes.
Keys for Oregon
Close down the perimeter
Oklahoma thrives on burying opponents from outside. During the NCAA Tournament, Oklahoma has attempted 71 three-pointers over three games. The Sooners are making 42.6 percent of those baskets per game. They shot 44 percent from three-point range against Texas A&M. Oregon can't let Oklahoma get going from deep or the game will get out of hand quick.
Being unselfish on offense helped Oregon pull away from Duke in the second half. The Ducks had 22 assists on 32 baskets, which was more than in their previous two NCAA Tournament games combined. Five players scored in double figures – led by Dillon Brooks with 22 points. The Ducks also need to spread it out against Oklahoma. They will need efficient and unselfish offense to counter the potent attack showcased by the Sooners.
Oregon and Oklahoma met in the first NCAA Tournament championship game back in 1939. The Ducks won in that meeting and history could repeat itself again. The Sooners tend to rely too much on their outside shooting and having Hield overwhelm opposing defenses. Oregon has a good track record for shutting down opponents on the perimeter and can do the same to Oklahoma.
Prediction: Oregon 80, Oklahoma 74
— 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.
(DIllon Brooks photo courtesy of Getty Images)