UC Irvine Anteaters (31-5) (21-13-1 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (24-12) (21-15 ATS)
NCAA BB: Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 9:40 pm ET (SAP Center, San Jose, CA)
Line and Odds: Oregon -5, O/U 126
March Madness Pick Oregon Ducks vs. UC Irvine Anteaters
Come Sweet 16, at least two west-coast teams will be left in the NCAA tournament. One team in the pacific is for sure to fall and that’ll be either the #12 Ducks of Oregon or the #13 University of California-Irvine Anteaters. Who will it be, the team riding the nine game or the team holding the 17 game win streak?
Look, it’s a Bruin, it’s a Trojan. No, it’s the Anteaters from UC Irvine, one of two teams from California (St. Mary’s now eliminated), to enter March Madness. That’s right. Not USC or UCLA, UC Irvine. 31 wins surely solidifies a tournament reservation. It will also set the school record. 17 consecutive; also a school record.
What else punches your ticket? Winning the Big West season title for the fourth time in six years and making the NCAA tournament for the second time in history after winning your conference championship (last appearance was 2015) will do it. And being #18 in the country in points allowed per game at 62.7 also fulfills the requirements. Chuck it up to the defense as to why they’re really here, however.
The Anteaters are the best team in thwarting 2-point shots (40.7%) and are the #4 and #5 team in opponent effective FG% and overall shooting %, respectively. Irvine’s in the top 25 in opponent assists, shooting efficiency and field goals made among other defensive categories. Reaching Oregon meant using their defensive prowess to hold Kansas State to 29% from 3-point and 37% shooting overall in a first round upset. They’ll look to carry that over against an Oregon team that shoots 33% overall from 3-point.
The caveat is UC Irvine’s offense which isn’t good so they’re going to require defense to propel their offense. The defense has a lot to do with a #30 ranking in scoring margin (+8.8). In offensive areas, the Anteaters don’t get to the line often at only 16.9 a game and cash in on a minimal 11.9 of those chances, both only good for #274 nationally. They’re not all great in shooting and are better at inside shooting than with perimeter shots. But against a #20 ranked defense in effective field goal %, it looks like they may need to pull a rabbit out of a hat and figure out different ways to score against this green curtain.
The Oregon Ducks are now looking like a bubble team just outside of the top 16 teams in the tournament rather than the bubble team they were prior to the Pac-12 championship. They not only won that but more and that’s the attention of the nation as they’ve won by double digits all but twice during their nine game stretch.
So what got them here besides winning the Pac-12 championship? How about a Duck team that struggled to find their identity after Bol Bol went down along with few upperclassmen and a lot of promising freshmen who are finally settling into coach Dana Altman’s offense. And that means danger for the remaining tournament contenders because the Ducks are back in the tournament for the sixth time in Altman’s nine year tenure after missing 2018. The last time they were here, they reached the Final 4 in 2017.
The defense is also why they’re here. After holding six Pac-12 teams to under 60 points, including regular season champions Washington (twice), they arrived fashionably by doing the same to Wisconsin in the first round. Their no fly zone defense is causing fits for opponents underneath and on the perimeter. They allow numerous 3-point attempts but offenses are shooting 29% behind the arc, best for #6 nationally. Overall, foes shoot 40% against the Ducks and, Oregon is #18 for it. And thanks in large part to Kenny Wooten, the Ducks allow nothing inside blocking 8% of their opponents’ shots and will try to use Irvine’s poor perimeter shooting to their advantage. To show for it, they locked down Wisconsin to 33% shooting overall and 20% from 3-point on 6-30 shots.
Oregon’s offense doesn’t have a breakout star and are still finding their balance under Altman, but they’re quick and the defensive stops have created for a more effective offense. They’re not a real threat from outside being #185 in 3-point makes. They also need to to get to the line more as they only attempted 13 free throws in the Wisconsin game and #260 in FTM/gm.
UCI is 4-1 ATS as an underdog this year
The over has hit in 5 of its last 6
Oregon is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS all-time versus UC Irvine
9-1 ATS in their last 10
March Madness Predictions UC Irvine Anteaters vs. Oregon Ducks
If you’re betting Anteaters, bank on the defense to exploit Oregon’s offense. Irvine got All-Big 12 first team Barry Brown into foul trouble providing multiple runs in the Wildcat upset. Oregon’s offense also isn’t much of a threat. If you’re for Oregon, you’ll make good parlays by predicting Wooten will at least get a block or two effecting the game and for the defense to neutralize this game.
It’s a safe bet both ways as each are covering more than enough in the spread as of late. However, I picked UC in my brackets to not go past the second round. Oregon will get this because they still have two players from that final four and the experience of Altman in the tournament. One streak’s bound to fall and I think this is new territory for UC.
Pick: Oregon -5, Under 126