Oregon possesses an elite defense that is 8.7 points per game better than average (65.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 74.2 points per game). Teams are shooting just 40.6% from the field against the Ducks, which ranks 23rd nationally in field goal percentage defense.
Oregon shuts down its opponents without committing personal fouls, ranking 13th in the country in personal fouls per game (15.7). Oregon also ranks 2nd in the country in blocked shots per game this season (6.3), although the loss of Chris Boucher certainly hurts the Ducks’ rim defense (Boucher averaged 2.5 blocks per game).
The Ducks possess one of the most disruptive defenders in the nation in Jordan Bell, whose versatility is unmatched by any of the remaining teams in the Tournament. While Bell averaged 10.8 points during the regular season, his presence at the defensive end of the floor cannot be overstated.
He collected eight blocks against Kansas in the Elite Eight, establishing an NCAA Tournament record for a Pac-12 player. The Jayhawks were just 5-for-19 on contested shots in the paint because Bell did an outstanding job in protecting the rim. The UNDER is 5-2 in Oregon’s last seven NCAA Tournament games and 4-1 in its last five games as an underdog.
Meanwhile, North Carolina enters the Final Four for the 20th time in program history and possesses an underrated defense. The Tar Heels are allowing just 70.6 points per game to teams that would combine to average 75.3 points per game against a mediocre defense.
North Carolina dominates the boards and prevents teams from getting second-chance opportunities, ranking 21st nationally in defensive rebounds per game (27.95).
What makes the Tar Heels so dangerous is that they can win games both offensively (see Butler in Sweet 16) and defensively (see Kentucky in Elite Eight). Against Kentucky, the Tar Heels limited the trio of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Edrice Adebayo to just 0.99 points per possession.
The Wildcats’ star trio of freshmen controlled 54% of the team’s possessions between them during the regular season, generating 1.15 points per possession.
Defense has been the trademark of each team in the Final Four. Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina and Gonzaga combined to allow 0.95 points per possession during their Elite Eight games.
What makes that figure so remarkable is that their opponents averaged 1.12 points per possesion during the 2016-17 campaign, a gap of 18 points per 100 possessions!
Let’s also note that each of the four teams in this year’s Final Four are ranked in the top 20 in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings.
Take the UNDER in the Oregon/North Carolina game as Oskeim Sports’ Free Pick for Saturday, April 1!